The Bible on Leadership: From Moses to Matthew -- Management Lessons for Contemporary Leaders

The Bible on Leadership: From Moses to Matthew -- Management Lessons for Contemporary Leaders

by Lorin Woolfe

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"Millions have been inspired by the Bible’s spiritual lessons. Now, Lorin Woolfe provides a unique way to view the Bible . . . for leadership lessons that can be applied to our modern business world.

Consider David’s courage and innovation in slaying Goliath with just a stone and a sling; Moses’ outstanding "succession planning


"Millions have been inspired by the Bible’s spiritual lessons. Now, Lorin Woolfe provides a unique way to view the Bible . . . for leadership lessons that can be applied to our modern business world.

Consider David’s courage and innovation in slaying Goliath with just a stone and a sling; Moses’ outstanding "succession planning" in picking Joshua; Joseph and the political skills that brought him to the seat of power; and of course, Jesus’ compassion, communication skills, and vision that launched Christianity (a long-term success by any measure).

These are leaders among leaders. Their achievements — and their inspired methods of achievement — offer a wholly different perspective on business leadership. For the dozens of Biblical stories presented, the book provides:

• A concise retelling of each story

• One (or more) leadership lessons suggested by each story

• Examples of contemporary business leaders who exhibit some of the inspired traits of these ancient leaders, including: Fred Smith of FedEx, Howard Shultz of Starbucks, Tom Chappell of Tom’s of Maine (a “toothpaste with a mission”), Roy Vagelos of Merck, and many more.

The chapters cover these universal topics: Courage
• Purpose
• Communication
• Honesty and Integrity
• Power and Influence
• Performance Management
• Team Building
• Humility
• Compassion
• Justice
• Encouragement and Consequences
• Wisdom
• Creating the Future

Each topic concludes with a list of key points to keep in mind as readers continue on their own leadership journeys."

Editorial Reviews

This is a surprising and thought-provoking book.
High Holidays, 2002 Edition
Rich in revelations and immediate applications, The Bible on Leadership is a book to enlighten and inspire anyone called to lead -- regardless of their personal faith.
Christian Reading
Woolfe provides a unique way to view the Bible-a leadership tool to be applied to the modern corporate world.
Christian Retailer
Woolfe provides a unique way to view the Bible-a leadership tool to be applied to the modern corporate world.

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The Bible on Leadership

By Lorin Woolfe


Copyright © 2002 Lorin Woolfe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-0682-3

Chapter One

Honesty and Integrity

"An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips." - Prov. 24:26

"Judge me, O Lord, according to my ... integrity." - Ps. 7:8

God's honest truth. Actions that back up the words and words that are congruent with the actions. People of integrity and honesty. People we can trust. That's what we look for in our leaders.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, one of the best-known teams of management experts in the United States and authors of The Leadership Challenge, performed a survey of several thousand people around the world and several hundred case studies. They found that honesty was the most frequently cited trait of a good leader, so frequently cited that they wrote a separate volume about it, called Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It.

It doesn't matter how noble or worthwhile your cause; if you haven't earned people's trust by constantly keeping your word and being true to your values, people won't follow you too far. They may follow you to a point, but when the going gets tough, they'll start to hang back or look around for another leader. You may tell followers that despite the obstacles, the goal is achievable and that you will back them up 100 percent. But if you have failed to back them up in the past (or even if you simply lack a track record of trust and honesty), no one is going to line up to follow you through a deep mud puddle, let alone the Red Sea.

Lately, managers and leaders across the world have often left us wanting in this key area. Richard Nixon hired people to break into the headquarters of the opposing political party, then lied and claimed he had nothing to do with it. Bill Clinton had an affair with a White House intern a few years older than his daughter, then promptly denied that he had ever participated in any sexual activity with her.

Morton Thiokol, the aerospace company, failed to listen to a scientist's warnings that the Challenger spacecraft was unsafe, causing the entire crew to go crashing to a fiery death just minutes after the launch. Executives at Texaco engaged in a systematic pattern of discrimination against minority employees and tried to hide it, but audiotapes provided incontrovertible evidence of their actions.

The leaders in the Bible were cut from a different cloth. Even when their visions seemed unrealistic, people followed them because of their integrity and honesty. The Bible is full of examples of individuals who kept their words despite incredible natural and human obstacles, and of leaders who risked loss of power, money, and even their lives to keep their integrity intact. Noah was selected and rewarded for his integrity; Lot was saved from the hellfire and ashes of Sodom and Gomorrah for his honesty.

Moses, who brought God's warnings against lying, stealing, and coveting to his followers in dramatic fashion, was a man of great integrity himself. The Ten Commandments are very explicit: "Thou shalt not steal." "Thou shalt not murder." "Thou shalt not give false testimony against thy neighbor." "Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's house ... wife ... manservant or maidservant ... or anything belonging to thy neighbor." That's four commandments out of ten that deal directly with integrity and honesty.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets, at great risk and with much unpopularity, warned an entire people when they were departing from their original precepts of truthfulness and morality. Jesus Christ brought the message that "the truth shall set you free," and he was willing to die for the truths he embodied. And fortunately today we have been blessed with a number of modern business leaders who realize that without honesty and integrity, material "success" rings hollow indeed.


Fortunately for those of us who must work under modern leaders, integrity and honesty have not gone totally out of style. David Hunke, advertising director for the Miami Herald of the Knight-Ridder chain, notes: "We don't keep secrets very well around here, which is our own kind of joke. It is impossible to keep secrets, largely because of the issue of integrity. You can't imagine somebody at the very top of this corporation telling you something that wasn't true."

Now we all know that, at least officially, journalists have a code of ethics. But what about Internet executives? CEO Robert Knowling of Covad Communications, an Internet provider, puts every employee through a three-day vision and values process, this in a fast-moving environment where time (measured in nanoseconds) is indeed money. An anchor of this process is the concept of integrity. "That's not an earthshaking aspiration but we give it some bite," notes Knowling. "We once had to dismiss a highly visible manager for a violation of our values. But, as Jack Welch says, you must be public about the consequences of breaking core values. I don't want to wake up one day with a profitable corporation that does not have a soul."

Compare the integrity of Hunke and Knowling with that of monarchs Ahab and Jezebel, that "dirty duo" of the Bible whose lack of integrity would rival modern-day "monarchs" Leona and Harry Helmsley. For the uninitiated, Leona Helmsley was the New York "hotel queen" who, when caught paying almost no income taxes on a vast business empire, cavalierly stated that "only the little people pay taxes." There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that she posted one of the "little people" on each side of her swimming pool with a bucket of iced shrimp so that she could partake while she swam her laps.

But Ahab and Jezebel's lack of integrity certainly rivals "Queen Leona's." A man named Naboth possessed a vineyard, which was close to Ahab's palace. Ahab wanted to buy it to use as a vegetable garden, but Naboth refused to sell: Ahab became angry and sullen, refusing to eat, but at least his first impulse was to obey the law, however distasteful and frustrating this might have been.

However, Jezebel saw no need for him to sulk or be disappointed: "Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up! I'll get you the vineyard." (1 Kings 21:7) She devised a simple yet totally amoral solution. She got two scoundrels (presumably through bribery or intimidation, since she was capable of both) to publicly testify that Naboth had cursed both God and the king (she wanted to cover all the bases).

Jezebel succeeded in getting Naboth stoned to death. As soon as she heard the "good news," she said to her husband, "Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you." (1 Kings 21:15) Ahab, man of integrity that he was, was only too happy to comply.

Compare Ahab and Jezebel's approach with that of King David, who wanted to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of a fellow named Araunah the Jebusite. David forthrightly approached Araunah to humbly ask him to sell the threshing floor at full price (Ahab had Naboth killed so he could appropriate Naboth's vineyard at no cost).

Araunah offered David the threshing floor for free: "Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him." (1 Chron. 21:23) But David insisted on paying full price despite the fact that as King he could easily have appropriated the property by executive fiat.

By comparison, here is a modern example of a "vineyard" that was certainly coveted but not seized from its rightful owner because of an executive's integrity. David Armstrong of Armstrong Industries wanted to build a new plant next to the old one. In order to do so, the company would have to buy the home of a retired employee in his seventies and force him to relocate. The president vetoed the plan, exclaiming, "When we bought it (the company parcel), I promised he could stay there as long as he liked. Making him move now might upset him to the point where it shortens his life." The new plant was built on the other side of the property.

And consider the integrity of Jean Maier, director of policy services for Northwestern Mutual Life. In a sense, she is watching over the "vineyards" (financial resources) of thousands of policyholders. Before she took the job, she told her boss, "'I can't do this job unless I know I can do the right thing. I can't take some old lady's policy away ... if I think it's not honorable.' And my boss said to me, 'You will never have to do that.' And I have never been put in that position." Naboth would have been safe with her as a neighbor.

Too often, it seems honesty and integrity don't pay off in the short term, whereas dishonesty and lack of integrity do. How often have we heard sayings like "Do unto others before they can do unto you" or "No good deed will go unpunished"? In the Bible (as in business and organizational life), wrongdoers ultimately receive their proper consequences and virtuous people their just rewards, although not without a lot of needless suffering. If only people could be more honest from the beginning.

For instance, there's the ancient case study of Pharaoh, whose lack of integrity rivals any modern leader. This absolute ruler of Egypt could not tolerate any threat to his power. To keep his Hebrew slaves and build his vast monuments to himself, he was willing to rain destruction and death on his own people. When he refused to let the Hebrews go, God visited ten progressively destructive plagues on the Egyptians, starting with frogs (a relatively benign affliction) and moving to the killing of the firstborn (talk about progressive discipline!).

Pharaoh relented, probably because his own son was one of those killed. The story of the Israelites' hurried packing and exodus (resulting in the world's fastest-baking bread, matzoh) is well known to Jews and Christians alike. And it's a good thing that they were able to "bake and run" so quickly, because Pharaoh's "integrity" lasted only a few days. He went back on his word and pursued the Hebrews into the desert.

We're all familiar with what happened to Pharaoh's men when they tried to pursue the Israelites across the dry bed of the Red Sea, which had been parted for the fugitives. Seas may part for people of honor and integrity, but they often rush back to drown those whose word means nothing to themselves or others.

One test of a leader's integrity is his or her attitude toward "public" property. Some leaders take it all with them; others refuse to take a penny of the funds with which they have been entrusted. In recent times we know of leaders like Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda (she of the thousands of pairs of shoes), who appropriated much of their country's wealth before absconding to foreign shores. Compare their leave-taking to that of Samuel, who presided as the high priest of Israel for several decades. Not only did he refuse to take anything not belonging to him, he also asked his countrymen to identify anything that he had accumulated through the power of his office, and he would quickly and cheerfully return it!

Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord ... Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I taken a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.

"You have not cheated or oppressed us," they replied. "You have not taken anything from anyone's hand." (1 Sam. 12:1 - 4)

Now, how many of today's business or political leaders would willingly open themselves up to such scrutiny? Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky certainly would not pass the test. Neither would many of the third-world leaders like the Sultan of Borneo, who made off with $1 billion worth of his country's oil wealth. But the third world is not the only place where political leaders fail to measure up in this area: Just ask the driver of the truck that pulled up to the Clintons' new Westchester County mansion to quietly remove and return to the White House a large collection of expensive furniture that had been donated - not to them personally but to "the Office of the President."

Samuel didn't passively respond or react to an investigation of his possessions. He initiated it himself! He invited investigation of his honesty and integrity, down to the last ox and donkey, promising to return anything that might have been immorally appropriated, no matter how insignificant. And he promised to rectify the least evidence of impropriety or dishonest gain.

This type of integrity runs throughout the Old and New Testaments. Consider the farewell speech of the disciple Paul to his followers:

I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions ... They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. (Acts 20:32 - 37)

Is it any wonder that such a profession and display of integrity and honesty provoked such heartfelt loyalty from Paul's followers, or that their grief was so great over the thought of losing him? If you left your organization today, would your followers grieve so openly about losing you, and if they did, would any of their grief relate to losing a leader of integrity?

But is integrity really attainable at the highest levels in modern business? Can't it be an impediment to material success? Charles Wang, chairman of Computer Associates, sees no such conflict. Wang is head of a $4.7 billion company, but he argues that effectiveness often boils down to truth telling, not dollars.

To be a successful person ... you have to have integrity. Your word has to be everything you've got. You must have a moral compass. That's especially true if you're a leader because you're exposed more. People will get a sense of you, and if you are not true ... they'll get a sense that you are sleazy ... We buy a company, there's a contract that's just terrible, but you inherit all the contracts. You can argue the guy had no authority to sign it, but you ... honor the contract."

But leadership doesn't always have to be on a grand scale or come from the very top. John Boten, commercial systems manager of John Deere, feels that every transaction, no matter how large or small, should be conducted with integrity. When his company was undercharged by a vendor, he acted like King David, not King Ahab. "There was no question about it, we paid the vendor the amount that was due ... it was taught to me early in my career that I have to have integrity in everything I do." This one transaction was not going to "make or break" the company. Boten elected to follow his conscience and the words of Luke 16:10: "Whoever is dishonest with little will be dishonest with much."


Excerpted from The Bible on Leadership by Lorin Woolfe Copyright © 2002 by Lorin Woolfe. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Ronald Campbell
An amazing tool for finding a little inner peace. Lorin has connected the lesson's from today's leaders to the wisdom of the ages. Some where in the middle of reading this book I went from a fascinating read on bridging current management practices to teachings from the bible, to a personal alignment of head and heart for my own leadership practices.
— President and CEO Center for Leadership Studies
Larry S. Julian
Lorin Woolfe boldly brings to life a key message: The Bible is the greatest leadership book for today's business leader.
— Author of God is my CEO: Following God's Principles in a Bottom- Line World
David Baron
The Bible on Leadership provides keen insights into management and stewardship from a timeless resource. It gives clear instructions citing chapter and verse on biblical examples of moral leadership. I highly recommend it.
From the Publisher
Christian Retailing: "Woolfe provides a unique way to view the Bible — a leadership tool to be applied to the modern corporate world. Rich in business insight, readers will enjoy the leadership lessons gleaned by biblical and modern day readers."

Laurie Beth Jones
Lorin Woolfe has built a sound and sturdy bridge between modern day business challenges and Biblical lessons. I read it, and was both enlightened and inspired.
— Laurie Beth Jones, Author of Jesus, CEO; The Path; and Jesus

Meet the Author

Lorin Woolfe (Somers, NY) is a specialist in leadership at the American Management Association, managing a portfolio of 25 leadership seminars given hundreds of times annually throughout the U.S.

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