The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith and Calling from the Life of Joseph

August 28th, 2015

Albert M. Erisman, Hendrickson Publishers, 2015

Mention the biblical patriarch Joseph and most people will think of his dreams, his multi-colored coat, and his band of jealous brothers who tried to kill him. Yet Joseph was an astute businessman and prudent leader in who saved the near eastern world from famine through strategic planning and grain-futures trading.

The business world in Joseph’s era (around 1800 BC) seems to have little in common with today’s supercharged global marketplace, at least at first glance. But a closer look proves otherwise, according to Al Erisman—author, professor, former Boeing exec, and surely on the short-list of smartest people on the planet. (See his complete bio below.)

Erisman’s own career triggered keen interest and over twenty years of research on the life of Joseph, as recorded in Genesis 37–50. Erisman discovered that Joseph’s personal and professional life provides rich insight and practical wisdom for today’s workplace. Gleanings from his studies led to the book, The Accidental Executive. He writes,

Joseph accomplished a major feat that would challenge the best businessperson of modern times. He identified a problem, created a solution, and implemented that solution on a grand scale. Through his work, he saved his civilization from starvation, enabling the world to survive a great famine in Egypt. In short, he created the strategy for a global business that had an impact on the world, not unlike what Microsoft or Boeing has done today.

By tracing his work—from menial tasks to high-level leadership—Erisman identifies three key areas where Joseph’s life offers valuable lessons for Christians in the workplace today.

  1. Moral issues. dealing with temptation of money, sex, power and the unique challenges of both failure and success.
  2. Operations. leadership, planning, execution, production, marketing, 
  3. Calling and career choice. finding meaning even in menial work and integrating faith and work.

The Accidental Executive includes compelling stories from Erisman’s extensive library of Ethix interviews with business leaders such as Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley legend and Apple Evangelist; Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint-Chiefs-of-Staff; Ralph Larsen, former CEO of Johnson and Johnson; Alan Mulally, recently retired CEO of Ford; and Sherron Watkins, former vice president of finance for Enron.

These accounts are woven throughout the book, laid side-by-side with Joseph’s story, bringing a contemporary reality to one of the Bible’s best-known stories.

Al Erisman is the Executive in Residence at Seattle Pacific University, where he teaches business ethics, and business and technology. He is the executive editor and co-founder of Ethix magazine, coauthor of several books on technology and mathematics, and serves co-chairman of the Theology of Work Project. Before his teaching career, Erisman spent 32 years at The Boeing Company, where he was Director of Technology. In addition to speaking all over the world, he is involved in economic development in the Central African Republic. Erisman received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1969 from Iowa State University. Purchase The Accidental Executive on Amazon here. 

Media: Books