Executive Values: A Christian Approach to Organizational Leadership
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Release Date: Friday, March 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover, 128 pages 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Publisher: Augsburg Books
Age Level: Leader
"In Executive Values, Kurt Senske persuades us that the wisest business strategy may simply be the decision to respect and obey Jesus Christ on Monday morning and every day of our lives."
— U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
"This book couldn't come at a better time. Self-professed Christian corporate executives have been cooking the books, breaking the law, and enriching themselves in the process. Kurt Senske's message is a powerful reminder that managing and leading with Christian values means more than just attending church on Sunday."
— Gov. Michael S. Dukakis
"In these times of questionable accounting practices and management indiscretion, Dr. Senske offers a practical, concise, Christian approach to living out our values in the workplace, while at the same time achieving balance in our personal lives. Christians who lead by practicing the golden rule will indeed make a difference in the lives they lead, the companies they manage, and the people they serve."
— Bruce Nicholson, president and CEO, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
"Executive Values illustrates very well that doing the right thing is best for business. This book will help change the lives of many readers for the better."
— Ed. F. Kruse, chairman of the board, Blue Bell Creameries
"Senske has truly captured the essence of effective executive leadership by incorporating time-tested Christian values with effective current business practices. He draws upon external management research, solid biblical references, as well as his significant professional experience to create a 'must-read' for the successful modern day manager."
— John P. McDaniel, CEO, MedStar Health
"Dr. Senske has written a very readable book containing a rich assortment of introspective personal assessments, useful illustrations and examples, wise counsel, mature reflections based upon practical experiences, review of some of the most important current literature on the subject of leadership, and insight and guidance gleaned from biblical materials. The content of this book will help to motivate individuals to practice the Golden Rule of Leadership."
— Dr. Alan F. Harre, president, Valparaiso University
Excerpts below are from the Preface, Introduction: Doing Well by Doing Good, and Chapter One: The Characteristics of a Christ-based Leader.
From the Preface
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
— Winston Churchill
Two events that took place during the writing of this book have had a profound impact on our organizational and personal lives. The first, of course, was the series of terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Like most people who witnessed the tragic events of that day from afar, I was initially overwhelmed with the need to be with the people who are truly the most important to us-in my case my wife and daughter. I was also overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness and insignificance. I felt called upon to make a difference and help the victims and their families, and I had no idea how to do so. The good that I was accomplishing in my professional career seemed suddenly inadequate in the context of September 11.
Although not nearly as catastrophic, the second event that captured our collective attention during the writing of this book was the Enron fiasco. We witnessed with disbelief the destruction of some $70 billion in wealth that decimated the retirement savings of thousands of Enron employees and punished even more small investors. We were enraged and dismayed as congressional hearings demonstrated proof of an intentional strategy by senior management to misrepresent financial transactions for the purpose of enriching themselves at the expense of those they were entrusted to serve. We felt abandoned by two supposedly premier organizations, Enron and Arthur Andersen, and wondered just whom we could ever trust again. We later discovered that other supposedly premier organizations-Adelphia, Dynergy, Global Crossing, Merrill Lynch, Qwest, Tyco, and WorldCom, to name just a few-had also engaged in greed-driven and unethical activity that enriched those at the top at the expense of employees, customers, and shareholders. Our willingness to trust in such organizations, and the markets in which they operate, was further challenged.
So much destruction and deceit are bound to cause society and individuals to engage in intensive self- and collective examination and reflection. In the months that followed these two events, two important elements of personal and organizational life that had been buried during the economic boom of the 1990s began to slowly resurface. First, many of us came to the realization that we have for too long compartmentalized our lives into work, home, and church, and have applied different standards to each. We have come to see that values, ethics, spirituality-however one chooses to describe them-cannot be checked at the office door. The standards we live by at home, in church, and among family and friends should be incorporated in the workplace. People at all levels of an organization, from the boardroom to the factory floor, are searching to connect their faith and values to their professional lives in a way that brings both personal fulfillment and organizational success.
Second, for-profit and nonprofit organizations alike are reawakening to the age-old idea that values and organizational success are in fact inseparable. In what Alan Greenspan describes as "capitalized reputation," our society is in the midst of creating a new trust-based economy where an organization's value and success is inextricably linked to its reputation.
Numerous post-September 11 and post-Enron conversations with those in the suites, as well as those in the cubicles, revealed that people intuitively understand that values and long-term success are inseparable. What is lacking, however, is a framework or blueprint that provides guidance for taking our "whole selves" to work. Christians, too, often lack the framework and language that will help them put their faith-based principles into practice in the workplace. Despite their good intentions, a myriad of workplace pressures and daily obstacles prevent them from achieving this goal.
Executive Values is a first step in educating Christian organizational leaders on how to incorporate systematically their values into their professional lives. If the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," had been followed at the highest levels of Enron, Arthur Andersen, and the myriad of other corporations that recently have come under fire for questionable practices, we as a society may have avoided the damaging aftereffects of scandals and congressional inquiries. By following the golden rule at work as well as at home, we can add value to our organization and those around us. We can bring our "whole selves" to work and make a life instead of merely making a living.
From the Introduction: Doing Well by Doing Good
"There is no reason you can't be one of the most successful organizations in the world and one of the most altruistic. There is no inconsistency between those goals."
— Jim Collins
This book combines two aspects of organizational leadership not often mentioned in the same breath: getting results, and integrating Christian values within an organization. Leaders of organizations recognize that results matter. Results, in fact, are the sole reason any organization exists, whether in the public or private sector, whether with nonprofit or for-profit status. Yet it seems that modern business practice dictates that organization leaders, in order to achieve profitable results, must keep their professional lives and their lives as faithful Christians separate. Executive Values serves as a road map for incorporating faith and values into everyday organizational life. It demonstrates how doing well and doing good are inextricably linked, and provides a comprehensive strategy for utilizing Christian values to achieve organizational goals.
Results are measured in various ways, depending on the type of organization involved. In a school environment, educational outcomes may be primary; while in a publicly traded company, maximizing shareholder return is foremost. Complicating this is the fact that many organizations have goals that seem contradictory. For example, a hospital exists to provide excellent care for the customer, but its leadership is also responsible for maximizing shareholder return. The pressure created by having multiple goals can lead to confused priorities and seem to force a decision between altruism and financial reality. This in turn makes it difficult for business leaders to consistently apply Christ-centered values as they navigate the minefields of daily organizational life. The "mines" are familiar: budgetary pressures, shortsighted investors, unrealistic sales goals, difficult employee issues, new competitors, and disloyal customers. This book is for the organization leader who is a Christian and who seeks to achieve an organization's stated goals while struggling daily to live out the ideals formed through faith. It is my belief that God does not ask us to have a successful career at the expense of our faith. At work, at home, and at play, I believe that God desires that we strive to pattern our lives after the life and teachings of Christ. Further, I believe that incorporating Christian faith-based values into our daily professional life gives us a competitive advantage. Consistently doing so can have a significant positive impact on your organization and on your personal life.
Executive Values is a "how-to" book designed to help you succeed in your chosen profession without compromising your faith and losing your soul in the process. Jesus warns against seeking worldly recognition and power at the expense of faith: "What good will it be for
(Austin, TX) Sept. 20, 2004 — Dr. Kurt Senske, chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services, is a finalist for the 2004 Ethics in Business Awards presented by the Samaritan Center of Austin and St. Edward's University. The award recognizes local businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals who have demonstrated high moral standards in the workplace and community.
Senske's nomination comes as no surprise to those who know him personally or professionally. For the past 10 years, Senske has guided LSS through achievement and adversity by applying the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." During his tenure, Senske has been responsible for more than doubling the size of the agency and steering the once-troubled organization back into financial stability. Now, LSS has a budget of $70 million, 900 employees and serves more than 25,000 children, elderly and poor annually.
Senske has written two books on the importance of ethics in business and in life: Executive Values: A Christian Approach to Organizational Leadership and Personal Values: God's Game Plan for Life."
"Many of us came to the realization that we have for too long compartmentalized our lives into work, home and church, and have applied different standards to each," said Senske. "We have come to see that values, ethics, spirituality — however one chooses to describe them — cannot be checked at the office door. The standards we live by at home, in church, and among family and friends should be incorporated in the workplace."
Senske and four other finalists will be honored at the third annual Samaritan Center Ethics in Business Awards dinner on Oct. 19, at the Hyatt Hotel on Town Lake.
Lutheran Social Services is the social service arm of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LSS and its affiliated ministries annually serve more than 25,000 children, elderly and poor in Texas and Louisiana regardless of religious beliefs, ethnicity, gender or age. Its ministries includes children's residential treatment centers, therapeutic foster care, adoption, emergency assistance, health care and retirement centers, disaster response and emergency assistance. — Lutheran Social Services
The message of this book offers a principled response that seems at first glance deceptively simple in both its clarity and consistency. This is a single message book, offered up with unusual personal vulnerability and commitment by one who has been convinced by both research and experience.
Senske organizes his approach to Christian values-based leadership around four areas: the development of a healthy organizational culture, strategic planning, mentoring, and balancing personal with professional life. Using concrete examples from both profit and non-profit environments he makes a convincing argument that the corporate financial model of serving only the bottom line is not the best model. Rather management and leadership approaches that value and empower people, and which have as a priority the long term good of the organization, will in the long run provide the best probability for success.
Senske offers Matthew 7:12 as the "Golden Rule" foundational basis for both understanding and measuring Christian values. "So, in everything, do to others, what you would have them do to you...." This Golden Rule of Leadership works, he claims, because it is comprehensive, incorporating into one accessible principle the gospel values of love, honesty, respect and justice. Christian values-based management makes good business sense. Or, more colloquially stated, leaders can help their organizations to do well by doing good.
The Golden Rule is not limited to Christians and can be found in both the Torah and the Koran. Secular leaders also adopt it as a value. This book however, speaks specifically to those men and women of Christian faith who seek to combine excellence in their work and faithfulness in their personal lives.
Less convincing for some might be his claim that under this model all decisions work for good for those who follow the Golden Rule. Are there not some circumstances that, finally, cannot be shaped into win-win situations? For example, is it always possible for a manager to sleep well at night having taken tough decisions to dismiss staff? One would like to talk more with Senske about whether there might be circumstances in which these can be nothing else than tough decisions which, although they might be necessary and even good for the organization, would not be in the best interests of the individuals, and therefore disturbing for the sleep of Christian managers.
One question that Senske does not address, but to which this book points, is how a values-based Christian approach would work within the one organization where not only the manager and management team, but the organization itself most directly professes those Christian values: the church. To what extent could this approach be implemented in, for example, a congregational setting?
Is it possible to imagine church councils engaging in values-based strategic planning? How is building a leadership team different when working with volunteers? How does the life and health of a local parish relate to the salary and benefits package of the pastor and staff? Is there a message here for overworked pastors and over-committed laypeople? Upon finishing this book, the Christian leader and manager thinks: "Yes! Of course!" In that sense there is a certain level of common sense and stating of the obvious for people of faith called to live out their baptism within their vocational life.
Kurt Senske invites Christians to reclaim the richness of their beliefs and values for the purpose of pursuing excellence in their work. This book is both an invitation and challenge to managers and non-managers alike to risk a new and Christ-centered way of working. It dares people to trust that the same Christian values which stands one in good stead in life, will also be a firm foundation for living faithfully in the work place.
—Rebecca S. Larson, Executive Director, Division for Church in Society, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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