Can religion be good for business? Good business is a product of good leadership. Good leadership is usually defined by qualities such as integrity, work ethic, a personable communication style, and good judgment. Most religions are breeding grounds for these characteristics. The day to day struggle of striving to be your best and contributing your gifts to a cause greater than yourself is the beginning of pruning a leader. Almost all religions have rules of conduct which creates a great deal of accountability for the practicing individual. This in turn produces a need to hold oneself to a higher standard, which leaders in business are always expected to do. Business leaders who profess to be a part of some kind of religion are usually well thought of. There is an assumed sense of community and humility as well as an unspoken trust in the individuals judgement.
However, power can also lead to corruption, regardless of the individuals religious affiliation. There are numerous stories in the media regarding some leaders misuse of power in these roles. Ethics and the moral sense of right and wrong can sometimes be at odds with the use of power. This challenge is not limited to the private sector but spans accross non-profit and and government sectors as well. Here are some famous heavy hitting business leaders who have struck a succesful balancing act of religion and business:
Conrad Hilton- American hotelier and founder of the Hilton Hotels chain is a famous Christian businessman. Hilton based his business and philanthropic philosophy on his most prominent influences-his parents and the Catholic Church. According to the Conrad Hilton Foundation, his mother often reminded him that prayer was his best investment.
James C. Penney – This American businessman and entrepreneur founded the J.C. Penney stores in the early 1900s. His large income allowed for his involvement in philanthropy. The 1929 stock market crash halted his work, and the Great Depression left him in financial ruin. His financial setbacks affected his health, and he checked into a sanitarium. After hearing the hymn, “God Will Take Care of You,” Penney became a Christian. He eventually recovered financially and continued his involvement in charitable works.
Sam Walton -This American businessman and entrepreneur is best known for founding the Wal-Mart retail stores. With his strong Christian background based on ethics and hard work, Walton excelled in school, college, and business. Early in his career, he served as a management trainee for J. C. Penney.
John Willard Marriott, Marriott International has about 3,400 lodging properties in the United States and 67 other countries and territories. Marriott began his business career running a root-beer stand with his wife in Washington, D.C., where he had been a Mormon missionary. The couple later expanded their enterprises into a chain of restaurants and hotels.
Gary L. Crittenden- A Morman and the former chief financial officer of Citigroup and American Express. He is the managing director of Huntsman Gay Global, a $1.1 billion private equity fund.
David Neeleman- A Morman and the founder and CEO of JetBlue Airways.
Hilary “Zig” Ziglar – American author and salesman became a full-time motivational speaker in 1970, incorporating his strong Christian values into his enthusiastic messages. He wrote a book titled “God’s Way is Still the Best Way” in 2007.