Corporate scandal pervades the news, whether it's Enron, Tyco or Martha Stewart. When executives do bad things, who or what's to blame? John C. Maxwell, who preaches business principles and ethics to the high and the mighty, has some ideas: "I believe the problem is that they had never made the decision to be an ethical person." He says successful people make decisions early in life, and manage those decisions the rest of their lives. "You cannot manage decisions you haven't made."
Maxwell's two recent books for Warner Faith, Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success (May) and last year's There's No Such Thing As "Business" Ethics:There's Only One Rule for Making Decisions, exemplify a swelling subcategory of titles in religion—mostly from evangelical Christian publishers—that address ethics in business, leadership, money matters and work. Through these offerings runs a call to deal with others humanely and to resist hyper-competition, profit obsession and technology immersion.
Field pioneer Maxwell dismisses the term "business ethics." He says, "There's just ethics. You either have them, or you don't." He prescribes the golden rule: treat others the way you would want to be treated. This principle crosses religious and cultural borders and, Maxwell says, is the closest thing to a universal guideline for ethics.
Rolf Zettersten, v-p and publisher for Warner Faith, says the market for these books is growing with the increasing dialogue about how faith and work intersect. Each of Maxwell's four books for Warner Faith has averaged sales of more than 150,000 copies. Warner advertises them to business professionals, understanding that not all want to read a Christian perspective but that many do, Zettersten says.
But how do you reach the unscrupulous? "I ask myself that question," Maxwell says. He figures unethical people probably shun his books. Zettersten says, "I would hope that our books are reaching people who are in these kinds of positions and can think about their responsibilities and their decisions in the light of ethics and of values. But obviously in many of these cases it appears that wasn't necessarily the case." With so many high-profile examples of poor principles, the publisher says, the need has never been greater.
At Nelson Books, Jonathan Merkh, senior v-p and publisher, also comments that those who really need the books won't be the ones buying them. He oversees the new Nelson Business imprint, which centers on redefining traditional ideas of success. According to Merkh, the line was "born out of our incredible previous success in the business book category. Our books are set apart from other business titles because they are fueled by Judeo-Christian values." Merkh cites Sam's Choice (Mar. 2005), by Don Soderquist, the former senior vice chairman of Wal-Mart, "which looks at the values and principles that drove the world's number one retailer." Nelson Business also has Jesus, Life Coach by Laurie Beth Jones (Apr.) and Trust by Les Csorba (Aug.). John Maxwell has recently re-signed with Nelson. He was with that house from 1992 through 2000 and produced at least 35 books there; several were national bestsellers, and two simultaneously hit the BusinessWeek bestseller list. His next Nelson trade book, Winning with People, comes out in December, and Maxwell and his Nelson backlist form the new imprint's foundation.
From Zondervan, Christian ethics books for leaders include Summoned to Lead by Leonard Sweet (May) and The Way of the Shepherd by Kevin Leman and Bill Pentak (Aug.). Head honchos get more focus in Less Is More Leadership by Dale Burke (Harvest House, June); Insights for Today's Christian Leader by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson (Crossroad, Aug.); Reviewing Leadership by Robert J. Banks and Bernice M. Ledbetter (Baker Academic, June); Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner (Jossey-Bass, Apr.); and Leaders and People in Biblical Stories by James Fischer (Liturgical Press, June).
Out of Enron
Stephen G. Austin can smell fear. As more people go to prison over white-collar crime and accounting scandals, businesses are driven toward reformation, says Austin (see InProfile, this issue), a former audit partner of Price Waterhouse and co-author with Mary Steelman of Rise of the New Ethics Class: Life After Enron: Not Business as Usual (Charisma House, Apr.). The book, based on biblical principles, is a platform for starting the restoration, Austin says. He maintains that the problem most often is a lack of ethical training.
Tom Marin, v-p of sales and marketing at Charisma parent Strang Communications, says religious ethics in business would have been "the most dicey of issues" three or four years ago, but now faith-based worldviews have gone mainstream. He says today companies are seeking ways to "re-brand" themselves as ethical. "It's actually been fairly easy to market the book and position it." Promotions target the business media.
Other books dealing with reform—this time in the nonprofit world—include Covenant House: Journey of a Faith-Based Charity (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, Dec. 2004) by Peter J. Wosh, who directs the program in archival management at New York University. Wosh covers how Covenant House, a haven and fund-raising force in New York City, rebuilt its reputation after an ethics scandal.
Even before the wave of corporate scandals, Gary Moreau felt discouraged by job security elimination, the idea that business's only goal is profit, and the notion that business sits on the sidelines in society. The former leader of Oneida Ltd. and Lionel Trains wrote The Ultimate MBA: Meaningful Biblical Analogies for Business (Augsburg Books, Apr.) to advocate a biblical rationale for business decisions. "All the information we really need is there, in the Bible," says Moreau, contending that management theorists and consultants have over-complicated matters. He advocates a work environment where people feel more connected to one another and to the outside world.
Publisher Scott Tunseth says Augsburg Fortress Books now has about one book per season in this area, and they're performing well. He sees business searching for a purpose in addition to making money. Augsburg is boosting The Ultimate MBA via national media, a national advertising campaign, in business publications, and at trade shows.
Daily endeavor—physical, academic or service-related—comes in for exploration in Armand E. Larive's After Sunday: A Theology of Work (Continuum, Apr.). The retired Episcopal priest and philosophy professor, now a carpenter in Bellingham, Wash., points out that working people tend to be disconnected from those in the ministry. "It's often as if church on Sunday is different than work on Monday," he says. He tries to explain why churches and theologians feel this disconnect and to show it's possible to validate what people do at work as a genuine part of their Christian lives. Claire England, Continuum's religious marketing manager, says the book will be of interest to Protestant and Catholic clergy, seminarians and lay people who want to know how they cooperate in God's work. After Sunday is promoted to Episcopal seminaries and media and organizations like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the National Center for the Laity.
Thank You for Your Business (Howard, July) by Linda M. Wall offers accounts of those who have gone beyond the call of duty for a client or customer. In a book for high school and college graduates, Live Your Passion, Tell Your Story, Change Your World (J. Countryman, Apr.), Bob Reccord and Randy Singer assert that what one does for a living is one's calling. In August, Tyndale House will publish Dianna Booher's Your Signature Work, on giving one's personal best on the job. Lloyd Reeb, who says midlife crisis is really a halftime for reflection, shows how to instill worth in the second half of a career in From Success to Significance (Zondervan, Sept.).
Though evangelical Christian books may dominate the subcategory, other voices are chiming in on the subject of work and faith. Many businesses put out news releases bragging about downsizing and mechanizing, says Howard Jonas, founder and chairman of IDT Corp. But his multi-billion-dollar telecommunications company boasts of job creation. "The Jewish tradition holds that the highest level of charity is to give a person a job, to give them the opportunity to earn a livelihood," says Jonas, who details his values and his struggles with depression in I'm Not the Boss, I Just Work Here (Judaica Press, Mar.). An Orthodox Jew, he hopes the book will sell beyond the Jewish market to Christians and others who are concerned with the same issues.
According to managing editor Nachum Shapiro, Judaica Press wants I'm Not the Boss to reach unaffiliated Jews and take a positive message about Judaism to the world. Publicity includes promoting the book into mainstream bookstores, as well as Jewish bookstores and Judaica stores.
Says Jonas, "A major point in the book is that man has to do God's work here in this world, and occasionally God actually intervenes with a miracle to help out." He says his company makes a point of hiring talented people who have suffered major setbacks. "A lot of these people have built us into the fastest-growing company in the country," he says.
The subject of Judaism and ethics receives further examination in The Jewish Ethicist by Rabbi Asher Meir (Ktav, Apr.) and Eyes to See: Recovering Ethical Torah Principles Lost in the Holocaust by Rabbi Yom Tov Schwarz (Urim Publications, Mar.).
In a Buddhist exploration of work's meaningfulness, Transforming Work: An Experiment in Right Living (Weatherhill, Mar.), Padmasuri—called Hilary Blakiston until she was ordained in the Western Buddhist Order—writes about a giftware business, Windhorse:evolution in Cambridge, England, that gives away most of its profits
Your Money or Your Soul
Some books tackle money ethics, among them two Tyndale releases, Creating Your Personal Money Map by Ethan Pope (Jan.) and Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley (Apr.), which promote magnanimous giving, as well as Sheed & Ward's Consuming Faith: Integrating Who We Are with What We Buy by Tom Beaudoin (Jan.). In Greed (Oxford Univ. Press, Apr.), Phyllis A. Tickle, a PW contributing editor, argues that the titular Deadly Sin is the root of the other six.
While all of these books promote a religious worldview, Michael Shermer, president of the Skeptic Society and publisher of Skeptic magazine, contends in The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule (Times Books, Feb.) that morality and ethics developed through time. Religion, he writes, is just a social institution formed to "enforce the rules of human interactions before government and concepts of laws and rights existed."
Quentin J. Schultze disdains e-mail, cell phones and faxes as substitutes for personal interaction in Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age (Baker Academic, June). "The most important communication in an organization is interpersonal, in-person dialogue and if that communication is weakened by technology, then an organization will get into moral if not economic and legal trouble," Schultze, a Calvin College communication professor, tells PW. He says the social climate is becoming more impersonal and uncivil, and he calls for balancing high-tech and low-tech practices. "Religion seems to be the best source for moral framework in people's lives, so that individuals can be more likely to be concerned about the quality of their communication, not just the quantity." Maybe, Schultze says, it all goes back to the golden rule.