Review

How prophets lead to profits

Managing with the Wisdom of Love: 
Uncovering Virtue in People and Organizations 

By Dorothy Marcic 
Jossey-Bass Publishers 
San Francisco 

Between increasing global competition for market share, growing pressure from stockholders for profits, and expanding expectations for greater quality from customers, the business world has become vastly more complex in recent years.

These trends have, in turn, spawned a whole new genre of literature: books about fresh ideas in business management that seek to address the challenges faced by modern corporate leaders.

These books can be crudely divided into two categories. First there are those that take a mainly materialistic approach, arguing that money and profit are what business is all about and the best way to motivate workers and organizations is by the time-tested carrot and stick. The second category argues that altruistic values and moral principles are what really make people and companies work better.

Inasmuch as the first category is the most traditional one, embodying the largely discredited maxim that "the boss is always right," it is the second classification, with its paradigm-shifting ideas about the importance of moral values in business, that has gained the most attention of late.

Into this fold comes Dorothy Marcic with a new book entitled "Managing with the Wisdom of Love: Uncovering Virtue in People and Organizations." Published in May by Jossey-Bass, a subsidiary of Simon and Schuster, the 130-page book offers a superb overview of the "spiritual management" paradigm - as well as numerous keen insights in its own right.

Dr. Marcic, who recently returned to the United States after a four years at Czechoslovak Management Center in Prague under a Fulbright scholarship, essentially argues that business and commerce are governed by the same laws that rule other human relationships and, in this regard, it is the age-old wisdom of the golden rule - along with other cardinal virtues - that produces the best results.

"Some people think that spirituality and daily practical life are separate issues. One of the purposes of this book is to show that spiritual behaviors should be practiced in a factory as much as a temple."

–Dorothy Marcic

"Some people think that spirituality and daily practical life are separate issues," she writes. "One of the purposes of this book is to show that spiritual behaviors should be practiced in a factory as much as in a temple."

She then outlines some of the key values - including love, justice, dignity, respect and service - that comprise the "new management virtues" that are needed in the contemporary workplace. These virtues, she writes, are more than subsidiary niceties: they are the path to long-term corporate survival and success.

"Companies that break spiritual laws, that lack love, integrity, justice, and respect, will over time show negative effects in some way," she writes. "They may initially be successful, or even successful for quite a while, particularly if they have clever managers or little competition. However, the results of lovelessness, injustice, and disrespect will eventually make the organization less productive than it might have been. In the long run, the company will suffer alienation of workers, disenfranchisement of customers, loss of community respect, and so on."

Drawing on some 20 years of experience as a professor of business and management, she backs this theme up with numerous anecdotes about companies that have followed the path of virtue and thrived. Hewlett-Packard, a major American computer and electronics manufacturer, has a wide reputation for honesty and trustworthiness, both among its workers and its customers, writes Dr. Marcic. As a result, she says, H-P (as the company is known) benefits in numerous ways, from the willingness of suppliers to put H-P's orders first (because they trust that their contracts will be honored) to an ability to recruit the best workers (who know they will be treated with respect). H-P shipments are even cleared faster by customs agents at international borders, she says, because of the company's reputation.

Likewise, she writes, Semco, the largest marine and food-processing company in Brazil, benefits in the marketplace because of corporate policy which treats employees with respect and trust. Company president Ricardo Semler, she says, has introduced methods to promote employee participation, profit-sharing and information exchange. "By turning over most power to his employees, Semler has catapulted his company into incredible growth in revenues over ten years, despite incredibly harsh and unpredictable economic conditions in Brazil," writes Dr. Marcic. "At Semco, people are self-propelled, instead of being pushed forward."

Dr. Marcic uses extensive citations from other like-minded management theorists to bolster her views, and thus offers a superb summary of the best thinking in the new genre. But perhaps the most useful aspect of the book are the numerous tables and lists by which she categorizes and codifies this thinking. In this regard, it excels as a concise workbook for managers who wish to quickly digest and understand the best of various spiritual management theories.

Dr. Marcic, who is a Bahá'í, concludes that such new management techniques cannot be adopted halfheartedly. She cites a study saying that half of all organizational change efforts fail. "To be real, to be lasting," she writes, "change must be genuine and must spring from the deepest, most basic level of human needs and values."

Unless managers themselves are sincere, she says, unless they genuinely seek to implement "the wisdom of love" in their own lives, "all the strategies, slogans, and training programs in the world will not help."

Throughout the book, Dr. Marcic draws on the holy scriptures of all the world's religions for quotations to illuminate the virtues that she believes are most needed by modern managers. Accordingly, people of virtually any faith will find the book relevant and inspiring.

(Dr Marcic's book may be purchased at Jossey Bass Publishers website. You will need to do a search using the title or author.)

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