• United States
Managing Editor, Network World Fusion

Management and the Bible

Apr 22, 20033 mins
Data Center

* What the most popular book of all time can teach you about leadership

I like reading management books that relate the field to areas other than business. I’ve found that they’re less dry, more enjoyable and, at least in my case, improve my retention (and chances of application) of a concept or theory. I’ve read some related to the military and others on presidents and politics, and I know I have a book on golf and leadership sitting somewhere in my office.

Yet the latest book in this area to catch my eye is “The Bible on Leadership” by Lorin Woolfe. He was heading leadership seminars at the American Management Association when he got the idea for this book. Woolfe noticed that many colleagues had some type of inspirational literature, usually biblically-based, at their workspaces, and thought the spiritual aspect of leadership was an area that needed to be addressed.

“Most people who got some inspiration outside the workplace were reading the Bible, and most of the passages they outline could be traced to the workplace,” he says.

Woolfe says many of today’s well-known companies are run of precepts that can be traced to the good book.

“A lot of our modern leaders some consciously and unconsciously follow these biblical precepts,” he says. He points to ice cream titans Ben and Jerry’s. The company supports many social and environmental causes with its profits, following the Biblical value of “As you give, so shall you receive.”

Woolfe says founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield also refuse to take a salary higher than seven times that of the counter help in their stores, a practice based on the biblical theory of justice.

Looking to improve your communication skills? Check out Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Facing a seemingly impossible task? Maybe you can relate to Moses and the Red Sea. For the principle of leadership and kindness, Woolfe points to J. Willard Marriott, founder of the hotel chain. Marriott said: “We’ve got to treat our employees with kindness if we’re going to expect them to be kind to customers.”

“I think J. Willard Marriott would have found room for Jesus at his inn,” Woolfe notes, referring to the events preceding Jesus’ birth.

Describing himself as “not traditionally religious myself,” Woolfe points out that he did not write the book to promote Christianity or Judaism. “I thought it was too good a guidebook to leave it on the shelf.,” he says. “There are incredible parallels between [business] case studies and the biblical passages.”

Those who prefer not to focus on the spiritual angle can simply view the passages cited as parables or case studies, he says.

I enjoyed Woolfe’s book and recommend it as another interesting take on leadership. If for anything else, read it just to see how he ties IT titans like Steve Case, Lou Gerstner and Bernie Ebbers to the Good Book.