on June 22, 2000
Gilbert Fairholm's book is less a path than a tight rope into a potential new world where spiritual and material values are allies. Fairholm's book clearly indicates how the meaning of work for many American managers and workers extends beyond bringing bread to the table. His target audience is therefore the managers, owners, students and heads (perhaps even stockholders) of the businesses and corporations for which they work. The thin line he walks is between the prevailing mentality of the world of business today and the world of higher values that he wishes to introduce more directly into its everyday practices and understanding.
The task is not an easy one. Fairholm's book does a fine job of laying out a vast varitey of issues and approaches a "spiritually" inclined leadership could develop into practice as well as fundemental spirtual understanding, such as business a stewardship, that would represent the conceptual foundation for building such new corporate behavior.
Fairholm's greatest problem is one of translating spiritual concerns and approaches to the language of business as spoken today. The problem is that popular "business book speak" has taken some critical concepts such as "leadership" and "vision" and so watered them down that one wonders if the words are capable any longer to convey the deeper meanings to which Fairholm is striving to related. Some words, like "profit" are noticeable avoided as almost too incompatable to deal with.
In the end this book deserves a good reading as a serious attempt to begin discussion of a major reorientation of work as we understanbd it today. To carry this cause futher, Fairholm, or others, may have to delve much deeper into the nature of not only "would be" spiritual organizations but the idea a spiritually friendly economic system as well.
It would be easy to superficailly dismiss Fairholm's book as a noble but unrealistic attempt to recast an anvil with an angel. To resist such quick dismissal it might be useful to reflect on the extent to which the United States was in fact established by execuitve personailites and men of commerce with deep spiritual commitments both personal and social. In this regards the revolution lurching behind Fairholm's facade of business talk may be less a future revolution than a call for a re-expression of an enduring if often obscured aspect of America. Fairholm book deserves reading as a first step out of the shadows of our present excessively ego based economic and managerial systems. Take the chance and walk the tight-rope with him