The Unconventional CEO – Religion

The Unconventional CEO

Chapter 82 – There are perhaps five things that contrast religion with business, where Mammon’s rules are different and troublesome if they are not well understood.

Firstly, the rules of your enterprise are constant in their daily demands. Not all religious people are constantly religious. Few will bother with saying Grace at the office canteen in the same way as they would do before meals at home. Often prayer is invoked more in times of crisis than during a carefree workday. In contrast, your rules are unrelenting in their application.

The second difference follows from this. Business requires atonement and restitution when rules are broken. There is no universal forgiveness just because it is asked for, sincerely or otherwise. There are big and small sins in business, and accountability cannot be shirked by confession and regret. Religious absolution, in contrast, can be quick, free, and easy to acquire.

Third, love, compassion, humility and subservience are great virtues in religious settings, but not in the cut and thrust of the competitive world of business. Dominance, relentless pursuit and a winner-takes-all approach are standard and expected. Turning the other cheek is a foreign concept in business, reserved for losers. Business is battle and war. The meek may inherit the earth. But not this week.

The fourth difference is that the locus of control in the enterprise is firmly vested in the employee. The required and expected degrees of responsibility and authority cannot be diminished by quoting or blaming an External Force. The Heavens are not responsible for something untoward happening.

Lastly, business in general is based on Protestantism, unfortunately. In most cultures, rich men work less. That’s why they wanted to be rich in the first place. Even Cicero proclaimed the dream to become pleasurably idle. Yet we expect the degree of stress, the number of hours in the office, and the sheer effort, to increase with each higher rung we reach on the corporate ladder.

The medieval Catholics had an ethic to share work amongst an increasing number of people, so none would remain without income. The reigning version of capitalism is unrelentingly a religion of the self-sacrificing work ethic, in its liberal, Anglo-Saxon, mould. Admittedly a broad statement.


The Unconventional CEO offers succinct, compelling advice from a successful CEO Mario Pretorius, to you The Cape Messenger reader.

The book is available to purchase in full from the Amazon store.

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