I read Kurt Senske’s book on Christian leadership for my Business Ethics class during my last semester of college. Senske’s Executive Values: A Christian Approach to Organizational Leadership explores how Christian values can support long-term organizational success. The book gives practical advice and real examples of companies and leaders who have followed Christian values and seen success because of it.
I am more interested in the theoretical and philosophical questions surrounding ethics, so this very practical book did not engage me. Senske’s ideas that you can do well and do good and that you can balance your work and home lives are not new to me. This book was nothing groundbreaking. I picked up on most of these ideas during my internships at Concordia Publishing House, where I was exposed to Christian leadership and genuinely caring co-workers. It was interesting to see the concept of faith-based business leadership explored on a practical level of how to create this type of environment.
For many Christians looking to enter the business world, the book’s focus on practical advice will be very helpful, especially if they have not worked for a company or organization that operates on these ideas. The specific examples that Senske uses of both his own experience and the experiences of other organizations to support his arguments are helpful to Christian business leaders. It is often difficult to take abstract Christian ideals and place them within the context of everyday business decisions, but this book is full of concrete examples for those interested in a less theoretical ethical discussion.
However, a major problem with this book comes from that lack of theoretical ethical discussion. Senske assumes several theoretical ethical ideas and principles and bases his practical advice off them. Thus, the nature of the book lends itself to the danger of becoming Joel Osteen-like in its checklist of things for a Christian to do to be successful in business and leadership. The last paragraph of the book highlights this problem—I disagree that we are in a sense “performing” for God by following the Golden Rule (“We will be successful…if we faithfully follow the Golden Rule of Leadership, and live our life for an audience of one—Jesus Christ.” (158)) and that there’s one set of principles to follow that makes you a Christian or a Christian leader. But, this book isn’t arguing ethical philosophies, but rather assuming ethical philosophies. As books that are published by Augsburg Fortress don’t undergo Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod doctrinal review, I don’t agree with all of the philosophical assumptions Senske makes about ethics, and I do not always agree with the reasons behind his practical suggestions for leadership. I would encourage readers of this book to step back from the text and question whether they agree with the philosophical assumptions Senske is making.