Great Business Ideas: Turn to Spiritual Leaders and Science for Management Advice

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Turn to Spiritual Leaders and Science for Management Advice

entrepreneurs looking for a new spin on management might want to read two provocative books: Moses on Management (Pocket Books, 2000), by Los Angeles–based Rabbi David Baron, and Leader- ship by the Book (William Morrow, 1999), by Ken Blanchard.

In this confusing and unsettling time, it’s no surprise that two revered spiritual leaders have been tapped to provide modern management advice. If you’ve tried traditional management books and are open to a new spin, here’s what you’ll find: In his book, Blanchard, with coauthors Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chica- go, and Phil Hodges, managing director of the Center for FaithWalk Leadership, explain the principles of “servant leadership” by telling a scary story with a happy ending.

Michael, a hard-driving, workaholic executive who has neglected his family, friends, and spiritual life, has a serious heart attack. His collapse brings two longtime friends back into his life: The Professor (a thinly disguised Blanchard) and The Minister. What Michael learns during the course of the 197-page story is that true leaders think of themselves as servants to their customers and employees. Anyone who runs a small business is in the service business and can apply these parables.

Rabbi David Baron, founder of Temple Shalom for the Arts in Beverly Hills, said he started writing sermons about how the Bible relates to business issues as a way to reach out to members of his busy congregation. He said many people would like the companies they own or work for to reflect values they cherish.

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Often entrepreneurs are too busy running their businesses to think about incorporating important values into their day-to-day management decisions. Yet, a truly successful business has to operate based on the ethics of its owner and employees. For example, if you cheat or short-change your customers, you shouldn’t be surprised if your employees do, too. If you tell white lies about why you were late or missed an appointment, your employees will think it is OK if they do the same. “The more I got into [these topics], the more it resonated with business people,” Baron said. His book explores how to balance business success with ethics. Lessons shared include asking for what you want, the same way Moses asked Pharaoh to free the Jews, and “bringing your staff out of the slave mentality.” Baron also considers why God chose Moses for such a tough leadership role when he was hardly management material. “Imagine hiring a manager whose profile reads: reluctant to lead, stutters, distant, prone to long mountain- top vigils, temperamental to the point of smashing corporate mission statements, strikes out instead of speaking, settles disputes through swift violent means, and never reaches his ultimate objective.” Baron’s point is that you have to look beyond the obvious when you are hiring new employees or grooming current employees for a promotion. Evaluate people based on how they have handled a cri- sis, dealt with an upset customer, or reached out to a troubled coworker.

Both books offer a different perspective on business management and may inspire you to take a slightly different view of a troubled employee or a difficult client. The books may also inspire you to reconnect with your spiritual side, even if you haven’t been to a church or synagogue in years.

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For a totally different yet equally thought-provoking management book, read The Natural Laws of Business: How to Harness the Power of Evolution, Physics and Economics to Achieve Business Success by Richard Koch (Doubleday, 2001).

Koch relies on Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and other scientific theories to explain how to improve the environment around your business. “We need to understand the natural laws, whether these control tiny particles, huge planets, or our own behavior,” says Koch. “We have to respect the laws. We must recognize when they can undo our plans. And when we can harness their power in creative ways.” He offers important business lessons on finding a niche to dominate based on Gause’s Principle of Survival by Differentiation, supports experimenting before committing to a major initiative based on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, and discusses how to improve relationships with diverse employees by learning more about evolutionary psychology. If the spiritual path doesn’t lead you into better management, try the scientific.