Which biographies are on your short list?
One is serial entrepreneur Noah Alper’s BUSINESS Mensch (2009). Among other ventures, the natural foods chain Bread and Circus, now owned by Whole Foods, was founded by Alper, as well as the Noah’s New York Bagels chain, which he sold to Einstein Brothers for $100 million in 1995.
Alper tried to run his bagel business on traditional Jewish religious principles, including keeping kosher.
He took the ethical dimensions of Judaism very seriously, as well.
For example, he describes in detail, with examples, how important being a mensch (an honorable, decent person) is to earn employee dependability and customer loyalty.
He cites the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy — shuttering the business for a full day each week.
He also stresses taking personal time every day, like a scheduled half-hour walk, for personal reflection.
Another biography I’m considering is basketball coach Phil Jackson’s Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success (2013). Jackson brought his Zen Buddhist ideas and practices into his work with his teams, the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.
He explains how Buddhism helped his teams move from being disconnected and ego-driven to being unified and selfless.
He tried always to relate to his players as full persons as well, not just as cogs in a basketball machine, helping them develop their personal moral qualities and spirituality.
He incorporated mindfulness meditation into practices and used rituals to infuse work with a sense of the sacred.
What are some ways people can integrate religion into their work lives?
In the book I co-authored with Laura Nash of Harvard Business School — Church on Sunday, Work on Monday:
The Challenge of Fusing Christian Values with Business Life — we distinguished between espoused religion, which we counsel against bringing to work, and catalytic and foundational religion.
The catalytic is personal and includes practices like meditation and prayer, while the foundational emphasizes generalized statements of religious wisdom that cross boundaries and traditions, like the Golden Rule and Ten Commandments or stories of love and sacrifice like that of Rev.
Martin Luther King. It can be very important and helpful to bring catalytic and foundational religion to work, from the CEO level on down, while espoused religion should be left at the door.
We also cite business educator and consultant Stephen Covey’s emphasis on practicing spirituality at work as part of “sharpening the saw,” one of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Since spirituality, often directly derived from one’s religion, lies at one’s core and involves commitment to one’s value system, it is critical to nurture those sources as much in the workplace as in private life. T
hat can be done through the likes of personal rituals, applying scripture to workplace situations, and developing corporate credos and sagas that can affect a business’s culture.
What lessons does literature offer to the contemporary workplace?
Hermann Hesse’s title character in Siddhartha struggles throughout his life to combine business and spirituality.
He becomes a rich merchant who is at first unattached to material success, concentrating on putting his customers first and acting ethically with all stakeholders.
But then he becomes covetous, succumbs to the “soul sickness of the rich,” and becomes not only mean-spirited but also suicidal.
Late in the book he finds equilibrium in a daily business of ferrying travelers across a river, providing spiritual mentoring to some, but finding that most people simply want good transportation services.
Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine portrays a Hindu immigrant’s journey through a variety of jobs and experiences as she seeks the American Dream from Florida to New York to Iowa to California.
Takeaways include how to balance new-world selfishness in personal freedom with old-world selflessness in familial duty; examining whether there is a stable self (or Self) to rely upon in each of us or an ever-changing identity as we change our environments;
the foundation of morality in karma, or reaping what one sows; and the struggle between fate and will.
Name a CEO who is successfully bringing his or her spirituality to work every day.
Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, has spoken and written about how he has been influenced by the Buddhism of the Dalai Lama.
,He considers the number one management principle in his own work life and for his company to be managing compassionately.
This goes beyond empathy to walking in another’s shoes and taking collaborative action together.
He is convinced that compassion can be taught not only in school, but also in corporate learning and development programs.
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A fellow minister who heard Jeff Weiner speak on “The Art of Conscious Leadership” at the 2013 Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco described Weiner as making the most inspiring contribution to the conference.
Not only was his spiritual commitment to his employees and customers strongly evidenced, but also he has a business leadership dream to expand compassion worldwide through his powerful social media company.
Scotty McLennan is a minister, lawyer, an author and the former dean for religious life at Stanford. He and his mentor, the late Rev.
William Sloan Coffin, were the inspiration for the red-headed Rev.
Scot Sloan in Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” cartoon. As a lecturer in political economy at Stanford Graduate School of Business, McLennan uses literature to help students explore the moral and spiritual issues in their own careers.
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