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Humble leadership

BOOKS | Wisdom for believers and business managers

Humble leadership
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David Green is best known as the Hobby Lobby founder. He also makes headlines as the patron for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

In Leadership Not By the Book (Baker Books 2022), he and co-author Bill High tell the rest of his story, which challenges the stereotype of a billionaire.

Green pays his employees about double the minimum wage. He lives modestly and has one home and one lifetime wife, Barbara. He and his family support ministries to help prison inmates and refugees from other countries.

The book has several strengths. Green writes in short, simple sentences, and he has good chapter headlines: “Give Away Your Profit”; “Put Employees First, Not Money.”

He writes for all Christian ­believers but also offers wisdom for the business management reader.

His central theme: God owns Hobby Lobby. He and his family are stewards.

Older readers may remember Stanley Tam’s 1969 book, God Owns My Business. The Ohio-based Tam, who just died in April at age 107, devoted his profits to missions. Green has a similar approach. At Hobby Lobby the top managers get a salary. Half the company profits go to charities through a foundation, and the rest to expansion. There are no stock options or Wall Street worries.

Green is humble about his own failures. He was successful in the early years, until a regional 1985-86 recession. He enrolled in what you might call God’s “school of humility” and planned to avoid long-term debt, which had almost sunk the company.

A family succession plan includes family engagement, but with promotion by merit, not by birth. His wealth management wisdom matches up with what the best professionals offer, and he credits his writing partner, Bill High, for help with the succession plan.

Perhaps to keep the story shorter, he seldom mentions his father or mother. His father was a pastor, and Green likely has some Psalm 112:2 blessings that help explain his business success. (“His offspring will be mighty in the land.”)

Yet what he offers in 231 pages is much wisdom and understanding, learned in business but pertinent everywhere else.

Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of the WORLD News Group board of directors.


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