Thursday, June 9, 2011

Business Week Article "God's MBAs: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders" Includes Brief Account Of Mitt Romney's LDS Mission

On June 9th, 2011, Bloomberg Business Week published a massive six-page article entitled "God's MBAs: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders", which attempts to explore the relationship between mission success and corporate success experienced by some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They note that, although Mormons only constitute two percent of the American population, they hold, or have held, a seemingly disproportionate number of top jobs at such major corporations as Marriott International, American Express, American Motors, Dell Computers, Lufthansa, Fisher-Price, Life Re, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Madison Square Garden, La Quinta Properties, PricewaterhouseCooper, and Stanley Black & Decker. The head of human resources at Citigroup is Mormon, and in 2010, Goldman Sachs hired 31 grads from BYU-Provo, the same number it hired from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

The disproportionate presence of successful Mormon executives can be attributed to a couple of fundamental factors:

-- Religious training during youth: It can begin as early as the age of three, when Mormon kids first learn public speaking by giving brief two-minute presentations; the primary purpose is to teach young Mormons how to effectively internalize their beliefs. As they get older, young people are given responsibility in quorum service, where they learn how to organize meetings and resources given to them. Their mettle is tested by getting up early five days a week to attend Seminary classes. This is in addition to their customary scholastic and family responsibilities, so they learn how to cope with long hours and numerous tasks through prioritization.

-- Missionary service: Missionaries learn to get along with a wide variety of people under conditions of some privation. In foreign countries, missionaries frequently live as the locals do rather than wall themselves up at the local five-star air-conditioned Hilton. Furthermore, by getting countless doors slammed in their faces, missionaries develop a thick skin and learn how to handle and even counter rejection. Thus in the business world, when others give up, they'll slog on and go the extra mile. Long hours do not deter them.

The article also includes a brief account of the full-time LDS mission performed by Mitt Romney. While some might consider it somewhat of a "celebrity mission", he did rise to the occasion under pressure and exhibit the leadership talents which have pushed him to the precipice of the U.S. Presidency. The excerpt begins on page 3 of the article:

Mitt Romney served in France from 1966 to 1968, after his freshman year at Stanford University. Widespread anti-American sentiment at the time made proselytizing especially difficult; in a 2007 New York Times article, Romney described his mission as humbling, saying it was the only time in his life "when most of what I was trying to do was rejected."

As the son of George Romney, the ex-American Motors CEO who was then governor of Michigan, Mitt Romney enjoyed privileges unheard of for most elders and entered the mission field of Bordeaux and Paris having completed three years of French at Michigan's elite Cranbrook School. Once on site, Romney broke handbook rules to sneak out to the movies and eat coq au vin, and used his father's connections to arrange a meal at the American Embassy, according to the Times. Still, Romney has credited the experience with deepening his faith and ambition. Eager to move up through the missionary ranks, he experimented with innovative means of getting out the Mormon Word, like hosting "American night" at a local café and staging an exhibition baseball game. According to The Washington Post, he also pitched articles about Mormons to newspapers and even tried proselytizing at bars.

Romney's mission was marred by tragedy. On June 16, 1968, he was asked to chauffeur the couple presiding over the region's missionaries and was at the wheel during a head-on collision that killed the mission president's wife. Romney was left unconscious and so badly mangled that a police officer mistakenly pronounced him dead. He was rushed to the hospital and found to have a concussion, fractured ribs, and a broken arm.

When the mission president returned to the U.S. to bury his wife, Romney was asked to take charge of the region's missionaries, who numbered around 200. He thrived in the position, traveling across France to lead conferences. Under his leadership, France's missionaries exceeded 200 baptisms for the first time in a decade.

Yes, Mitt Romney may have been given a "celebrity mission" slot in France and ate coq au vin, but when someone was needed to provide leadership in an energency situation, Romney stepped up to the plate and provided that leadership, and did so despite recovering from the personal injuries he incurred when the emergency broke. Furthermore, he succeeded, with an increase in the number of baptisms in what was an indifferent district up until that point.

And Romney has continued to provide that leadership in nearly every endeavour of his subsequent life. He may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he seems to be familiar with the challenges experienced by those not so fortunate. Nonetheless, because Romney built up his own fortune through hard work, he will be more sympathetic towards workfare rather than welfare. This is as it should be.

Business Week did a fine job in researching the Church for this article, presenting a balanced and factual account. Nearly all the Mormon CEOs cited in the article responded to Business Week's request for input, except for Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr.


Shawz Family said...

I agree this was really well written, it is a shame that Romney's 2008 presidential primary campaign drove him out of the politics he used to win over an extremely Democratic state, and before that, the man that just about dethroned a Kennedy in the Senate......

I am, however, worried what this is doing to church leadership. Nibley said it best years ago in his speech, From Leaders to Managers: The fatal shift.

I am worried that in our church, we are moving more and more to a church that values money, and those who are successful at making it more than other professions. These successful professions whey substantial money is earned also take people away from their families a great deal, whether they are traveling through the week, or spending 10-12 hours a day working.... Many of these same people are working 10-12 hours on Sunday and a bunch during the week in leadership callings....

I'm sad for what this is doing to Women and children in our church... maybe need to find ways to have jobs that earn smaller amounts of money, bring us back to our homes, where as families, friends, and neighbors, we can be examples of Jesus Christ and his gospel... and avoid the appearance of treating filthy lucre as our religion.

Jack Mormon said...

You bring up a good point about the Leader-to-Manager shift. We've seen this in so many areas of society; it even took root in the military for a while, except in combat units.

Perhaps we are struggling with the influence of what is called "Prosperity Theology". In Prosperity Theology, wealth is automatically considered a sign of God's approval. The fact is, neither extreme prosperity not extreme poverty are necessarily guarantors of God's approval. What profiteth it a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

ifwecouldonlysee said...

I feel I should point out that I live in one of the wealthiest areas of the country (the northeast) and that my experience with well-to-do members of the church is that they are very giving. One of my past stake presidents was well off, and he had the stake youth over pretty often to have activities at his house and swim in their indoor pool.

Just because one might find themselves wealthy does not mean they have to compromise their character.