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Published: Saturday, 5/9/2009

Leaders find new value in the old scriptures

Beekun Beekun

With the business world still reeling from scandals involving Enron, Worldcom, Global Crossing, Bernie Madoff, and the like, management experts are looking for new ways to build a business.

They are finding many answers in ancient scriptures, according to Rafik Beekun, professor of management and strategy at the University of Nevada-Reno.

The ethics, morals, and integrity taught in the Qur an, the Bible, and the Torah can make a big difference in today s business communities, he said.

The Prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam, modeled the importance of ethics and character for all who followed him, said Mr. Beekun, who will lead a workshop on Islamic leadership principles in Perrysburg on May 16.

The business model started to change in 1987 with publication of The Leadership Challenge, a book by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.

Until 1987, there was never in leadership research a focus on integrity, said Mr. Beekun. Then The Leadership Challenge came out and it was a Wall Street bestseller, translated into 33 languages. They interviewed 2,000 leaders in U.S. businesses, both for-profit and nonprofit, and asked them To what do you attribute the effectiveness of your leaders? The No. 1 attribute was integrity. It was not communication skills, it was not intelligence. Those are important, but 83 percent of respondents attributed the effectiveness of their leader to integrity.

It was a landmark in management strategy and training because it made people aware of the importance of ethics in the business world.

Since then, there has been a major trend in management to bring leadership and spirituality together, Mr. Beekun said.

Studies have shown that businesses benefit in many ways when executives have integrity.

These leaders keep their word and do what they say they will do. They provide a model: If you want people to be honest, be honest yourself, Mr. Beekun said.

They also tend to work harder, work longer hours, and show more respect for business contracts they have signed.

When you look at some of the companies that have run into ethical problems, one of the things we notice is that their leadership basically showed a total lack of integrity. They tended to model one type of behavior but behave totally differently, he said.

Leaders who integrate the values of their faith whatever that faith may be into their work responsibilities are less likely to be duplicitous or unethical because they believe they ultimately will answer to a higher power.

They believe in accountability, Mr. Beekun said.

Another book that shook up the conventional business wisdom was Robert Greenleaf s Servant Leadership, which follows Jesus example in washing the feet of his disciples.

The idea of leaders first being servants to the people they ve been appointed to lead is a novel thing. Here are leaders making salaries that are multiples of 800 times that of the people in their company, and they are being asked to be their servants, Mr. Beekun said. But they are going from being agents of their own interest to more of a stewardship model.

Rafik Beekun will teach an Islamic leadership workshop from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 16 at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, 25877 Scheider Rd., Perrysburg. Registration is $25, available by calling the Islamic Center at 419-874-3509.

David Yonke

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