The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph by Albert M. Erisman. Hendrickson Publications. 202 pages. 2015
The story of Joseph in the Bible has long been one of my favorites. In this book the author looks at the life of Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, whose story is told in the Bible in Genesis 37–50. As he tells Joseph’s story, the author covers a number of topics related to leadership, integrating faith and work, and calling. As the author follows the story of Joseph, he adds in helpful insights from more than a hundred leaders, primarily from business, that he has interviewed over the past fifteen years.
The book covers a wide variety of topics regarding leadership in Joseph’s life. Among them are sexual temptation, professionalism, office politics, bringing bad news to authority, talking about God in the workplace, executing strategy, dealing with success, honesty and integrity, fairness and justice, temptations of power and money.
I enjoyed this book and highlighted a number of passages as I read it. Here are 12 of the best quotes from the book:
- For many of us, the link between our faith and our work is weak at best. Often this is something we have simply not thought much about.
- Recovery from failure, even when we contribute to that failure, is an important attribute for all of us.
- Joseph offers us a model for staying centered in God and being prepared for dealing with sexual temptation.
- We need to be prepared to make the right choices and know that they have consequences.
- I have encountered too many followers of God who assume God is in control and therefore there is nothing for them to do. Joseph found the balance of trust and initiative and seemed to handle it well.
- All of us at some time are faced with the question of what to say to someone in authority. The situation is made more difficult when we know that what we have to say is not what they want to hear. It may be tempting to say nothing, out of a desire to protect ourselves. But if we believe that we are called to this position, and are here for a reason, it is important to speak the truth clearly, respectfully, and wisely.
- A good leader receives bad news and acts on it appropriately. A poor leader doesn’t want to hear bad news. But bad news is always an opportunity to learn and grow.
- We should acknowledge God in our work, but again we need to be careful in the way we do it.
- When people leave a part of themselves at the door, it causes two problems. It would seem to dampen their engagement as a whole person, hence dampening creativity. And if a person’s sense of right and wrong is rooted in their religious beliefs, separating their faith and their work can undermine a person’s willingness to take ethical decisions at work seriously.
- Here is a final important observation to make about Joseph raising the question of God in his workplace. He did excellent work. He was not going around talking about God at the expense of doing his work.
- Calling is about our whole lives, not just our work, though it certainly includes our work.
- Whatever our vocation, we need to respond to God with the talents and abilities he has given us, working together to act as his hands and feet in the world.