I like business and enjoy the company of most of the business people I know. Most of them are honest, hardworking, and have a competitive toughness that usually benefits the lives of many others. This is not the way they are portrayed in the popular media, which tends to focus on the awful exceptions and then smear all businessmen and women with the egregious behavior of the few.
Of course, no one is perfect, and many an honest person has missed the correct choice in a close call. Sometimes the shades of gray are quite hard to distinguish. Others suffer a moral collapse under tremendous pressure and give in to something they think will make things better, but it doesn't. However, let me stress again, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. This is true of business people regardless of their religious faith, if they have no faith, if they are tough negotiators, or if they have a softer style. People have to behave according to who they really are. Some folks mistake personal style for integrity or morality. This is an important distinction.
I say this to preface my review of a very good book because I want to be clear that I do not think that only Mormons are honest businesspeople or that they have some special lock on morality. This book has a contribution to make because what it shows is how these CEOs and top businesspeople have a somewhat different focus on business than one might usually find (but probably not exclusive to them) because of their faith and the experiences they had living that faith.
Jeff Benedict shows how service on a full time mission for the Church at 19-21 years old (or thereabouts) was foundational for these men. While there was some variation in what was learned, they all learned about study, perseverance, hard work, and the importance of their faith in their life. Most married young and none have divorced. Most have what nowadays would pass for a large family.
Do you recall the old saying that behind every successful man is a great woman? Benedict shows how each of these executives have benefited from a true partnership with his wife. He has to put bounds on his work, and his faith helps him do that, to focus on what all the work is for; their family! She has usually foregone working in a career outside the home for money (all volunteer and do much good work in their church and community) to care for the home and the children.
It is quite moving to see the pressure put on these men early in their careers to violate their commitment to their family, to keeping the Sabbath holy (particularly by not working on Sunday, as a rule), to violate their commitment to not drink alcohol, smoke, or drink coffee or tea. Some have experienced serious financial hardship, particularly when young and in college, and they still paid their tithing and describe the blessings of doing so.
Since several of the executives had their offices near the World Trade Center, there a few chapters that describe what happened on 9/11/01. They all focused on their people and putting their safety above their own. It is also interesting to read how they recovered from the disaster. And yet, their duties at church still had to be done, and all were very focused on their families during this time. Several of them are very close friends and even attend the same congregation of the Church.
It is a very interesting book. If you are a Mormon, as I am, you will enjoy seeing how our faith can be lived with great success and without compromise. If you don't know much about Mormons, I believe you will find this book informative and you will admire the way these executives do their business well, but not as the center or the entire substance of their lives and how their faith helps them focus on business as something as a means rather than as an end. And in our time of astronomical CEO compensation, you will find what some of these CEOs do for pay quite refreshing.
I do think Benedict does need to do a book on Mormon Women who are successful in business and still live their faith successfully. I am sure it will have a different view of things than is shown in this book, but women do work successfully and still live their faith. Some are single, but I am sure there are those who are married and with long lasting marriages and children. Yes, there would be different and difficult pressures on such women, and most Mormon women would not choose it for a variety of reasons, yet it is a story that would be interesting to read and valuable to everyone.
But I don't want to be a grouse and reviewing a book that wasn't written. What is here is very good, interesting, and will be inspirational and valuable to a wide range of people for a variety of reasons.