Is the Ideal 'How-to' Manual for Business Leaders Divinely Inspired?

Don Tennant

I've gotten myself into some pretty hot water with readers because of some of the controversial issues I've written about in this blog. So why not just go all the way and raise the question of the role that eternal principles that have come to us from God should play in the workplace?

 

I had an interesting conversation last week with Dave Anderson, a car-salesman-turned-leadership-guru and author of the book, "How to Run Your Business by The Book-Revised and Expanded: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business." Judging from some YouTube videos I came across and my phone conversation with him, Anderson has the presence of a TV evangelist. The congregation he aims to preach to is people who have leadership positions in business.

 

The thrust of Anderson's message is that if you really want to excel as a business leader, your best bet is to forget the latest management fad and focus on leading in accordance with eternal principles that can be found in the Bible. He's not crazy about referring to these as "spiritual" principles, because, he says, "there are so many different forms" of spirituality. He is happy with "divinely inspired" principles, though.

 

Anderson has said that what we really need right now as we weather the economic storm is an "ethical bailout," and I told him I couldn't agree more. I asked him if there's any way for an ethical bailout-which to me means a focus on and greater appreciation of ethical behavior in business-to be accomplished without turning to these divinely inspired leadership principles. He said he hates to say, "never," but he really doesn't believe so:

The world's way of doing things so often conflicts with these Biblical or divinely-inspired leadership principles. They're motivated by more short-term thinking-what's good for me, what's good for now, what's good for the bottom line. I really believe that divinely-inspired principles take a longer view. And in order to get an ethical bailout, we have to just stop worrying about what's good for us, what's good for now, what's good for today, and apply these eternal principles that really help us grow things over the long haul. So I don't believe that it's possible, in any sustainable or measurable manner, without these principles at work.

I asked him if he envisions a time when it will be the norm for companies to be led in accordance with these divinely inspired principles, and if so, what has to happen between now and then to make that happen. Unfortunately, he said, he does not:

If you look at the trend, the world is getting more tolerant of "anything goes," it's not becoming less tolerant. It's becoming more inclusive of things that just a few years ago were considered just abhorrent. So unfortunately, I don't see a widespread trend going this way. I do see encouragement, in that good, moral leaders who have some basic understanding of these principles -- that maybe have dabbled with this trend, or that fad, or that flavor of the month that the world chases after, and realized that it's really not sustainable, it's really not the way to go -- will return to these principles. I think it's really going to help them stand out. I think these principles help create a unique culture, and for the companies that do adopt them-while I'm not starry-eyed and believe it's going to be on any widespread basis, just because of the influences of the world-it's going to create a very unique culture, and attract a very high-caliber person and customer who want to be associated with these principles and this way of doing business. These are not new principles. These are principles that have stood the test of time, that have applied in various situations over the millennia, and they work. We just need to take them and apply them.

Anderson has spoken about how we can learn from the leadership of Gandhi and the wisdom of Buddha, so I asked him if he would put the principles they espouse in a different category from the principles he writes about in his book, which have their roots in the Bible. His response:

Men and women like that may have had different religious beliefs, but some principles transcend religion. There are very similar proverbs and beliefs in various religions. So they're different in the respect that they're representative of a different belief, but I do believe these are eternal principles that transcend different religions and denominations. To me, that makes them even more powerful.

So I decided to push the envelope and ask him what his response is to those who would say that the principles espoused by the Founders of all of the world's great religions are the same and all come from one God. The point of the question was to get his view on whether the Bible is the sole source of these eternal principles. His response:

I don't believe they're all the same. There are some that are similar that show up, and there are some that are very, very different. There are some glaring differences, which is where religions start to come to the fork in the road and go one way or the other. For a while, some of them can run parallel-most religions can agree on a handful of things. But they really start to separate, especially when you get into the divinity of Christ. That's where you see separation. Frankly, some of the greatest principles that I talk about in the book were from Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, He basically laid out core values for the Christian Faith. And a lot of those core values can be adapted into our lives and into our businesses. So there is some common ground, but then there are some deep divisions as it goes on.

So what do you think? Is the Bible the ideal "how-to" manual for business leaders? Has God made these principles known to mankind through vehicles other than the Bible? And is this a legitimate topic in a discussion of corporate leadership?



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Aug 29, 2011 3:44 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

Injecting a specific religion or ideology into business as an all-encompassing company policy is risky business and quite frankly over-complicates things.  You risk alienating workers, clients, and even violation of EEOC laws. 

If you have a specific religious doctrine that you wish to introduce into your own workday, such as praying privately, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as you aren't imposing your religious ideology on others.  I think that it is also business etiquette to not make others uncomfortable for their beliefs (or lack of) and as such you should go out of your way to make sure your actions aren't doing that. 

I support the notion of ethics being ingrained into business.  You don't need religious doctrine to know that murder, stealing, or being deceitful are wrong.  I find people who believe that those of their faith are the "only ones who understand ethics and morality" are arrogant at best - and dangerous at worst.

I can't think of a single business scenario that I need guidance "from above" where we can't arrive at both a moral and ethical decision by using universally (or at least nationally) agreed upon "morality" or body of ethics.  Can you, and if so what is the scenario?

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Aug 29, 2011 8:43 AM ITJob ITJob  says: in response to R. Lawson

I have perfect scenario... (I expect this comment will be deleted sooner or later for reason known to everyone)

Let say we both work in same office, I sent you some email which is supposed to be between both of us but for some way Don got it thru different source (other than both of us)..Say our company system admin who has access to everyone's system (due to admin privilege) but has issue with our company with ethical reason of the company.

Now Don has two choices one as per his business principle and second as per his religious principle.

As per his business principle if it is news worthy evidence, he can publish it in this blog with all details.

As per his religious principle (in general any religion for that matter) it is of someone else private discussion and I am not supposed to publish it without the concern parties approval or at least publishing without directly point to us.

Both options has its own merits and demerits,

Merits of going by business principle

If he goes by business principle he won't be called liar by us.

He gets more fans whoever agrees to his view and shames us.

He gets credit for showing the entire persons involved (before any judgment given against us) as criminals.

Demerits of going by business principle

We both have no option other than keep quiet and cry for the shame this brings before even any court passes judgment against us.

We both will he hated by more people in a country.

Merits on following Religious principle,

Don won't display our names, so we can continue our normal life till any court pass judgment against us.

Don gets respected by readers who are not biased.

Don gets credit for handling the issue with best possible way.

De-Merits of Religious principle

Don gets yelled by readers who want spicy news with details.

Don gets no respect from people who are against us or our company.

Don may get less number of readers because there is no spicy in his blog.

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Aug 29, 2011 10:16 AM Joseph A. Puglisi Joseph A. Puglisi  says:

It is unlikely it would be accepted in the modern workplace if you were to overtly preach religious principles as the basis for management practices. I agree with the need and the observation about incremental acceptance of previously abhorrent behaviors, and truly see this as the steady unraveling the basic fabric of society. But one could only ACT in accordance with christian principles, displaying your faith and beliefs through your actions. We can hope and pray there are enough faithful left to turn the tide and reverse the trend.

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Aug 30, 2011 1:05 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to ITJob

Your comments are a work of fiction in terms of the issue of Infosys, workers blowing the whistle on fraud, and Don's reporting.

That issue is a perfect example.  If a worker discovers evidence that appears credible indicating fraud at their company and reports that evidence to law enforcement as well as journalists to force the matter I would call that person very brave.  It would call it very ethical - not matter what religion you subscribe to.

This is not an issue for just the courts to decide.  This is a matter of public opinion directly related to legislation currently in the works.  The general public and politicians should be hearing about this specific case now because it impacts legislation being considered now.  We don't have the luxury of waiting months and perhaps years for the courts to take action.

As to Don's actions, he has helped uncover a fraud and helped identify a part of the system that is very broken - that most people didn't know about (including myself).  If he stops reporting on it, people forget that the problem exists.

Corporate information that I think you should protect would be trade secrets and business processes that make your company unique and competitive.  Corporate privacy does not extend to covering up criminal activity.  I find your (apparent) support of protecting corporate fraud to be highly unethical.  I have seen many comments (not sure if from you specifically or not) attacking Jay Palmer.  I find that to be highly unethical.

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Aug 30, 2011 3:26 AM ITJob ITJob  says: in response to R. Lawson

I feel you jumped too fast in passing judgement on my comment.

In no place I said Don's report is wrong and supposed to be private company matter.

All I said was...publish it with some privacy (only the names) from the emails, it is up to Don what to publish and what not to.

And legally and business prespective he is 100% correct.

Every fraud has to be uncovered no matter how small or how big a company is. Companies are not people but they are run by, when you expose a fraud it is better not to display the names until legal system complete's his course and identifies the persons involved in the fraud.

Here is one example email for you to see gauge the difference

Current Don't report style...

Email sent from Mr.Sam Ram Vice President, Operations to Mr.Raja Sam, Project Manager

"Mr.Raja we are fine with breaking the immigration law as it is easy to escape with small penalty rather than losing big margin we agreed to earn and below is directions on how to break it......"

What I am trying to say

Email sent from Mr.SR Vice President, Operations to Mr.RL, Project Manager

"Mr.R we are fine with breaking the immigration law as it is easy to escape with small penalty rather than losing big margin"

Do you see the 2nd report has less credibility than the 1st one?

If I have trust in Don's report then I don't discredit his report just because he didn't published full names. Don's last report is similar approach and I do consider that is credible one.

Don or his source may not have received further communication on what Mr.Raja replied back to Mr.Sam....but from that email some may assume Mr. Raja also involved in such practice...whereas he may have left the organization for such practice or even reported to higher authority.

There is good chances Mr.Raja would suffer more than Mr.Sam because Mr.Raja was not participating in such fraud but the information is correct but not fully correct.

And now it is easy for any nut case to look for Raja Sam in linkedin or facebook or any other publically available source to track him down.

I could be wrong in saying that but that is what I was trying to communicate. Not to insult or discredit Don or anyone for that matter.

I am not sure from where you got such idea that I attacked Jay Palmer...I never discredit/attacked Palmer so far because I have no information otherthan what Don released about him and from his recorded statement in the Senate hearing. I don't pass judgement based on so little information.

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Aug 30, 2011 8:03 AM George Alexander George Alexander  says:

While business schools teach its students how to excel in business, it needs to do a better job at teaching them how to stay out of jail - in the right way.

Jeff Skilling, former president of Enron and key player in the Enron scandal was an alumni of one of the best business schools in the world - Harvard Business School.Yet at the peak of his career, that never saved him.When his professor ask him if he was smart, he replied "I'm f*****g smart".It's one thing to have knowledge.It's another thing to have wisdom.

Being a practicing Christian, I can only share from my experience and understanding.As taboo as it sounds, I am someone who believes that the Bible is the ultimate authority for all matters in faith and practice in my life and I try to reflect this in my work (inspite of my natural tendency not to).I don't expect anyone to tout the Bible as a manual for business leaders.However, if someone was to look in an honest manner, the Bible does have many principles that I believe even if applied in a secular context, will generally have people agree with and show good results.

I will try to summarize some of the things that challenge me.

1.Work and support oneself and family.

Because this is a divine commandment, we believe that God will help those who are sincere towards this goal.God also "worked" when He created the universe.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

2.Take rest, sleep and enjoy the fruit of our labor:

Even God "rested" after creation and set an example for us even though He is omnipotent and requires no such thing.But yet this is a principle that is very important for us especially in this day and age:

Psalms 127:1-2 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it:except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows:for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

Ecclesiastes 5:12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much:but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep

In 2009, 42 year old Ranjan Das, CEO of SAP-Indian Subcontinent, died of a massive heart attack.He was a fit, active person and a regular marathon runner.Even though he had stress, it was not abnormal levels different from any one else.However, one thing he was known to state was that he would have loved to have slept.There are many studies that co-relate sleep to the condition of your heart and a simple google search will reveal detailed information on this.

3.At the same time, do not "oversleep":

Proverbs 6:9-11

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

4.Money is not evil.The LOVE of money is though:

The old book lays it out crisp and clear - "the love of money is the root of all evil".It is this love that has led to many people getting into unethical behavior

5.Be mindful of the poor and the less unfortunate.

Do not be greedy.Can't remember the verses on the top of my head but there are plenty of these. Reply

Aug 30, 2011 8:04 AM George Alexander George Alexander  says:

6.The Bible asks us to be patriotic - respect those who govern over us.

1 Peter 2:13-15 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake:whether it be to the king, as supreme;Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.(companies like Infosys can do well here).

7.Serve your employer like you would serve your God:

Ephesians 6:5-8

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers;but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

8.Employers should be fair with their employees:

Ephesians 6:9

And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening:knowing that your Master also is in heaven;neither is there respect of persons with him.

9.Pay taxes.

Even Jesus Christ did.

10.Be honest, dedicated, sincere and a person of integrity.

The life of Joseph comes to mind.Sex, lies and power - things that brings down all great men - he survived them all.

Genesis 39:2-9

And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man;and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him:and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake;and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand;and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat.And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph;and she said, Lie with me.But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;There is none greater in this house than I;neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife:how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

These are just a few...I can think of more if I had the time.

I've worked in a couple of tough situations where I've been expected to deceive, work beyond the physical and mental capacity of my body, disobey seniors, rundown coworkers, be unfair to customers (even in a minor way), get greedy for higher pay and position when I was already satisfied etc.My faith, respect and fear of a higher authority prevented me from engaging in these whenever I was pushed to a corner and I can confidently say that I have lacked no good thing because of those decisions and never lived to regret it.

The problem of human nature is that it all starts small and then builds greater momentum step by step.Better nip it in the bud.As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

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Aug 30, 2011 8:23 AM George Alexander George Alexander  says: in response to George Alexander

Another point I want to say is that the Bible should not be pushed onto others who don't subscribe to it This will only breed animosity and strife and is very immature if I might add.

It can, however be expounded with reference to work, to those who subscribe to it already. The Bible teaches that "God created man in His own image" .i.e we are imbibed with moral values that transcend race, gender, nations and religions and these are inherently expected and known to us. This is what makes us different from animals (apart from our higher state of intelligence - dolphins, smartest animals work the whole day for a couple of sardines! www.itbusinessedge.com/cm/images/emoticons/happy.gif"/> ). You don't need the Bible to promote these values because these have already been laid in the heart of man whether we believe in a God or not.

I like your Christ, I do not Like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.- Mahatma Gandhi.

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Aug 30, 2011 8:56 AM ITJob ITJob  says: in response to George Alexander

I agree to all but "Serve your employer like you would serve your God", I would question my employer but not my God.

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Aug 30, 2011 8:58 AM George Alexander George Alexander  says: in response to ITJob

Right. Reading those verses again, my summary paraphrase doesn't sound totally correct

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Aug 31, 2011 8:10 AM who knows who knows  says: in response to George Alexander

If every corporate and CEO's follow only one of those US will be in much better position

9. Pay taxes.

Even Jesus Christ did.

I really felt amazed to read that

"Corporations don't dodge taxes, the people who run corporations do. And these CEOs are reaping awesomely lavish rewards for the tax dodging they have their corporations do.

In fact, corporate tax dodging has gone so out of control that 25 major U.S. corporations last year paid their chief executives more than they paid Uncle Sam in federal income taxes."

www.ips-dc.org/campaigns/tax-dodging-ceos/index.php

Whoever claims less tax on corporate(s) will create job please show where are the jobs?

I am ready for 10% tax increase from this year to the year all the debit gets paid off.

Please sign-up the petition in the website (Don feel free to delete this post if it is not appropriate...) to let Congress knows this is not "No More Corporate Tax Havens".

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Sep 1, 2011 9:31 AM Wakjob Wakjob  says:

"He who denies the Son has not the Father".

Don't worry Don, when God's judgement in the form of a sneak nuke attack from China comes down on Wall St. & Hollywood we won't need to sit here and debate biblical principals anymore.

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