The Mormon Way of Doing Business: Leadership and Success through Faith and Family

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By Jeff Benedict
Warner Business Books, 2007, 256 pages

Mitt Romney’s run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination brought Mormons and their beliefs closer public scrutiny than ever before. In The Mormon Way of Doing Business: Leadership and Success through Faith and Family, Jeff Benedict, himself a Mormon, has given us a timely insight into the style and habits of leading Mormon businessmen. His subjects are David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue; Dave Checketts, former president of Madison Square Garden Corporation; Kevin Rollins, former chief executive of Dell; James Quigley, CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu; Gary Crittenden, former CFO of American Express; Rod Hawes, founder of Life Re Corporation; and professor Clayton Christensen and former dean Kim Clark of Harvard Business School (Clark is currently president of Brigham Young University–Idaho).

The most striking features of these men are their focus, discipline, and persistence; it is further striking how well the Mormon beliefs and practices have prepared them for leadership roles. Faith and family are the warp and weft of the Mormon existence: All members must tithe to the church and, because there is no professional ministry, they have to perform the church’s many functions without pay. All young men are encouraged to start saving as teen-agers to go on a two-year mission to preach the gospel of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in a foreign country and to learn the local language before going there. On their return, their ecclesiastical work supplies them with practical experience, role models, and mentors. Women may also go on missions and are encouraged to get college degrees. In the Mormon church, the central role of women is still that of mother.

Unlike so much of Western society, which pays only lip service to work–life balance, the LDS community has made such balance a pillar of daily life. To pull it off takes organization — focus, discipline, and practice. The weekend is for faith and family: Mormon businessmen will not work on Sundays and avoid working on Saturdays and weeknights. This means that they have to make productive use of every available mo­ment. When Clark was a professor at Harvard Business School, he would get into his office by 7 a.m. and talk to no one before noon. What any businessperson wouldn’t give for five uninterrupted hours, even just one day a week.

In their relentless focus on their priorities and their continual, conscious integration of faith, family, and work, the Mormons are reminiscent of the early Quakers and other nonconformists, small faith-based groups that played such a central role in the first Industrial Revolution. Benedict’s book makes us think they could easily play a similar role in any future economic or social revolutions.

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