Warren Buffet reportedly coined the term “skin in the game,” by which he meant that corporate executives showed their confidence in their company to outside investors if they had stock in it.
If they had nothing to lose, could one really trust what they said or did with the company? If they had personal loss at stake, one could more readily trust their leadership.
Skin in the game is evidence of how strongly executives believe in what they say about their companies.
Skin in the game doesn’t apply only to corporate leaders. It may apply to church leaders and nonprofit board members.
Board directors show their confidence in a nonprofit organization when they support it with their own contributions.
When directors give, it signals to others that the nonprofit merits their support. That encourages others to donate. That’s why donors want to know if the board supports the organization – and how significantly it does.
Former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Duke McCall knew about the idea of skin in the game. He told me some 20 years ago that board members had three obligations: give, get others to give, or get off the board.
If board members don’t give and get others to give, they are not really invested in the organization. They don’t have skin in the game
Doesn’t the same hold true for churches?
Deacons demonstrate their commitment to their churches when they give and give generously. Church staff members, too, show their support when they tithe.
Mr. and Mrs. McPherson were aged and poor – very poor. They read their neighbor’s daily newspaper the following day. Then, they saved the newspapers to put the papers between their threadbare carpet and wood floor to help insulate against the winter cold in their old house built on piers.
They didn’t let their poverty keep them from being fully committed to their rural Texas church.
They put $3 every Sunday in the offering plate at Cego Baptist Church, located some 25 miles south of Waco. They believed in their church. They gave surely sacrificially to support their community. They had skin in the game.
The good community is one where everyone has skin in the game, where everyone is invested, where everyone benefits from gains and suffers from loss.
The lack of skin in the game is one reason that Washington is so badly broken.
When Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly called Obamacare, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), introduced an amendment that required senators and their staffs to participate in the health care program they were creating for the rest of the country.
“The more that Congress experiences the laws we pass, the better the laws are likely to be,” said Grassley.
Democrats saw Grassley’s amendment “largely as a political stunt by Republicans.” Nonetheless, they let the amendment pass.
Now here’s the kicker: Congress had a loophole in the health care bill. Representatives, senators and their staffs apparently don’t have to get their health care insurance through the ACA.
What the Democrats wanted the rest of the country to do is not necessarily what they want for themselves.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) decided that his staff will get its health care insurance through the Obamacare health exchange in D.C., not through the current provider – the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has pushed relentlessly for Obamacare, did just the opposite, hiding behind the dishonest excuse that he was just following the law – a law or a loophole he helped to create.
Reid’s decision drew fire.
“Unbelievable,” said a Republican aide. Reid “is apparently now saying that the law is good enough for average folks but not good enough for his leadership staff.”
But here’s the second kicker: Grassley isn’t exactly following the amendment he wrote! His senate office staff will get their insurance from the D.C. federal health care exchange. His committee staff will get their insurance from the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
No wonder Americans are beyond frustration and disappointment with their federal elected leaders who habitually practice mendacity.
The unworkable Obamacare website may explain to a degree the dismal response to citizens signing up for the ACA.
The failure of technology, however, should not shroud the failure of moral leadership by Reid, other congressional Democrats, and Republicans like Grassley.
Real moral leadership has skin in the game.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.