The Faithful ManagerUsing your God given tools for workplace success

Prologue – Why this book?

One of the inspirations for writing this book was a remark I heard attributed to the late musician George Harrison.  After the Beatles went their separate paths, Harrison performed and produced his own music and continued a personal journey of spiritual discovery that lasted until his death in December 2001.  Commenting on his faith, he stated “Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait . . .”.

We live and work in times of great challenge; times that seem drastically unlike much of the recent past.  The 1960s, 70s, 80s and even the 90s are tranquil, distant memories in comparison to now.  Our childhoods appear to us now as more innocent than our children’s.  Marriages seem to have been more stable and our work lives more predictable.  The events of the world, it seems, were more ordered and less random in nature.

We live amid a current culture in which the mainstream media routinely ridicules citizens who express their belief that praying for America’s recovery is a powerful tool. Where 10,000,000 viewers watch an aerialist walk across Niagara Falls, while the broadcast network willfully ignores and refuses to report the fact that he is praying during the entire event. We see violence masquerading as protest.  Where pornography and obscenity are celebrated as protected speech.  A world where license is mistaken for liberty and fame is confused with genius.  Value appears to have replaced values.  We no longer disagree with other people; we hate them for disagreeing with us.  Being bitter has replaced having self-responsibility.  Popular is the yardstick for measuring what is correct.  Sex really isn’t sex and a lie really isn’t a lie.  Rudeness equals dialogue.  Abnormal is the new, venerated normal.  The definitions of long held beliefs, we are informed by some, now need to be turned upside down.

What we experience in the present world often rattles our foundations, literally and figuratively, at home, abroad and at work.  In the midst of this tumult, we go to work and we try our best to manage through the day.  We depend on our leaders, colleagues and teammates at work to help us meet our own goals and those of our organizations. 

Our faith is on the line every day.  

At times, we experience a direct frontal assault as our faith is questioned and challenged openly.  At other times, these challenges are more subtle.  We become involved, perhaps unwillingly and unknowingly, in situations that require us to put our reliance and trust in our faith on the line.

“No less a figure than the Rev. Billy Graham has predicted that ‘one of the next great moves of God is going to be through believers in the workplace.’ ”

As a human resources professional, I see managers struggling to interpret the changing world of work, cope with government regulations and laws, understand the motives and actions of co-workers, and try to produce positive results consistently.  It isn’t simple anymore (if it ever was)!  Everyday I support, coach, counsel, guide, mentor and sometimes help discipline managers – it’s my living but it’s also my passion.  Helping others to succeed is one of life’s biggest blessings.

I believe that in and outside of the workplace, it is our faith that is being tested. 

Much of what managers feel stands in the way of their succeeding at managing people (and managing themselves) is a challenge to their faith.  Faith as a concept and as a practice is under attack.  Every conflicting issue I cited above illustrates a particular battle in this assault on faith. 

“People are realizing their faith can help interpret where we spend most of our waking hours.”

Of all the books for managers that I’ve read, none have combined the elements of faith, values, shared humanity and best practices advice. Ahead on the list of business best practices is faith.  The purpose of this book is to strengthen the armor of your faith and sharpen your practical use of that faith in your workplace.  To be a manager, to manage yourself and your co-workers successfully is to be an officer in the army of the faithful – the good soldiers who get up every morning, go to work, give an honest and productive day, and return to the task tomorrow.

“Spirituality in the workplace is exploding.”

 In the final analysis, Mr. Harrison was correct; the search for our faith and our connection with the Creator of that faith cannot be denied or postponed in the workplace or anyplace else.


“It doesn’t matter what you call Him just as long as you call.”  George Harrison


Chapter One – The First Word
We do well always and everywhere to have faith.
Faith in ourselves and in our shared humanity with our colleagues.  Faith in others, in their essential dignity and self-worth, and in our need for them and their efforts in order for all of us to survive, prosper and be successful.  Faith in our Creation.

Throughout this book I will talk with you about leadership, respect, authenticity and many other aspects of being a successful manager.  What you will hear is my faith in you as a successful person.  I can’t see you and you will likely only ever see a photograph of me.  Most probably, I will never have the opportunity to know you individually.  Where I go in life and where you go will probably not be known to each other.  In spite of that, I still have that faith in you.  Faith is what you believe in with all your mind and spirit without having to be shown the proof because the proof is manifest. 

“It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.”  Hebrews 11:1

In what do you have faith?
You and I have a journey.  In this book, we share a journey that goes deep within ourselves and explores what motivates us, what we feel, hear, see and think as we manage the workday.

We have another important journey.  This is our personal journey through life.  While this journey is uniquely our own, we share it with everyone else - each of us taking that unique personal journey, though we are never truly alone.  This is our greatest task, to live a life that is rich and textured, long and rewarding, and, in the end meaningful.  So much of that journey is traveled at work, that how we each live our work life accounts for a significant portion of our life’s meaning and reward.  The director and choreographer (and granddaughter of Duke Ellington) Mercedes Ellington stated,

“We take many journeys in life.  Some are pleasant and some are painful and some take us back to where we began.”

I started life in the borough of Queens in New York City in 1955.  My mom was unwed when I was born and she already had a six-year old son, my older brother Lee.  She was a twenty-six year old nurse’s aide when I entered the picture and she was responsible for raising two sons, by herself.  I know that she lived on her own, although my maternal grandmother, a large and imposing woman of Native- and African- American descent, also lived in New York City, in Brooklyn.  When I was five, my mother met and married the love of her life, my stepfather Carleton Shaw, who was 29 years her senior. 

To this day I’ve never met my biological father and I have only meager clues to his name.  But my stepfather, along with my mother, raised me from age five until his death when I was twenty-one.  I gained two beloved younger brothers in the interim, Carl, Jr. and John.

We were four boys with our mom and dad in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn
during the hectic 1960s and 70s.  As a family we weren’t poor but we were often broke!  There wasn’t a lot of money in our household.  There was, however, more than enough love, nurturing, respect, dignity and encouragement for learning.

Both of our parents revered learning.  Our home was filled with books.  Our parents expected us to know about politics and art.  We knew to always say “thank you” and “please.”  We took family outings to museums and libraries and public gardens.  During the election night of 1972, my stepfather returned home from work late in the evening and announced, “I’m going out to vote for the loser,” because he believed in the candidate’s message and to demonstrate that even in the face of sure defeat, it was important to do what he felt was the right thing to do.

I attended New York City public schools, as did all of my brothers, and was graduated from the business school of the City University system, Bernard M. Baruch College. I commuted to classes in Manhattan by subway.  My first years of college were free because at that time, City University didn’t charge tuition for New York City high school graduates.  This is now ancient history!

My stepfather died while I was attending college (the same college he attended for adult ed courses), so for my junior and senior years I took over his last job doing maintenance and repair work for a landlord in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.  Eventually I was hired by Dun & Bradstreet and then by the landlord agency of the U.S. government, the General Services Administration, as an Urban Planner.  I subsequently worked for the New York City Department of Investigation; the nation’s largest animal welfare charity; the Mayor of the City of Yonkers, New York; the largest air freight company in North America; and several other private and not-for-profit organizations.  I have helped investigate the biggest scandal in New York City history, worked to clean up one of the most corrupt municipal governments in the U.S., managed the acquisition and merger of the only animal poison control center in the U.S., and counseled managers on everything from harassment in the workplace to failed marriages. 

Along the way I’ve traveled the world, from walking on the Great Wall of China to jogging in the Alps. My salary in one year was more than my parents had been paid in salaries in their entire lives. As a young man I avoided eye contact with police officers because I feared being noticed by them as a Black male in an urban ghetto.  Years later I would be sworn in as the City of Yonkers’ first Deputy Mayor of African-American descent, with management responsibility for the Police Commissioner, among others. 

At a certain point later in my life, I suddenly stopped and realized what a miracle of faith my life had been.  I recall my mother, a chronic asthmatic whose trying life was ended by cancer at age 49, repeating one phrase whenever she dipped into her reserve of faith for strength; “God is good.”

Jump forward to the present.
Riding home one afternoon in my car, my first son and I began talking about miracles.  I don’t remember how we came to that topic but I recall it was preceded by us talking about his feelings about inviting a friend to his birthday party.  Gabriel asked me, “Have any miracles happened?”  Of course, when I quickly replied “Yes,” he wanted details!  I had to think for a moment before I could answer truthfully.

I told him he was a miracle.  Our doctor informed my then wife and me that after the birth of our first child Emma, the odds weren’t on our side for another pregnancy.  The birth of our daughter had followed a long and anxious road.  The gift of Gabriel came unexpectedly almost two years after Emma’s birth. 

Indeed, he is living, breathing miracle.

“What other miracles have happened?”

I told him about Nachum Sasonkin.  I’m looking at a photograph of Nachum as I write.  He is a handsome, bright-eyed young man of the Lubavitcher sect in Brooklyn.  In March 2004, he was graduated from the Rabbinical College of America and ordained a rabbi.  He carried with him to his ordination a bullet lodged in his brain.  Ten years before his ordination, Nachum was an 18 year old student, riding in a van with his school friends, approaching the Brooklyn Bridge.  A deranged hate-filled man, blinded by anti-Semitism, fired a gun into the van, killing another passenger, Ari Halberstam, and severely wounding Nachum. 

“For months, (Nachum) lived on a respirator, communicating by blinking once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no,’ and being fed by a tube through his stomach.”

While his doctors doubted he would ever walk or talk again, Nachum’s family and friends, and the faith-filled community to which he belonged, stayed by his side.  They took shifts sitting at his bedside, talking to him, singing to him, praying with the faith that a miracle would occur.

Listen to how Rabbi Sasonkin describes his personal miracle:

“I thank God for allowing me to recognize the preciousness of each breath and step I take.  I pray that I continue to lead my life on a deeper level than I did before, never taking anything for granted, always recognizing His blessings.”

I told Gabriel about Gabrielle Acevedo.  I’m also looking at a photograph of her.  Gabrielle had leukemia.  She was in the second grade in the Bronx.  In the photograph little Gabrielle is asleep in a hospital bed with numerous tubes attached to her.  She was born with heart disease and was diagnosed in 2003 with an acute leukemia strain. 
Before you feel sorry for her, listen to what her teacher Rochelle Moche, another extraordinary person, says she learned when Gabrielle insisted upon receiving her school assignments on the day of her bone marrow transplant:
“(Gabrielle) wipes off her nose, finishes throwing up and does the assignment. I learned humility, I learned how to listen, and I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”

Gabrielle has written words to a published picture book entitled “A Boy, A Dog and A Frog.”  The book is full of hope and happiness.  Although Gabrielle eventually lost her battle with leukemia, she won the battle to live in faith.  Gabrielle, Nachum, Gabriel and Emma are miraculous human beings, full of faith and testaments to faith’s power. 

The Necessity of Faith
Faith is more powerful in the world and in the workplace than any other force - ambition, passion, despair or greed.  A Christian commentator remarked that he sees many Christians who are afraid to talk about their faith, as if stating you have faith is somehow embarrassing.  The same attitude can be found in some Jews, Muslims and the faithful in other religions.

Have faith in miracles and you will be in enviable company.

“A national survey of 1,100 physicians . . . found that 74% of doctors believe that miracles have occurred in the past and 73% believe they can occur today.”

I had a discussion with a neighbor about faith in the workplace.  I guess you could characterize the discussion as a disagreement.  I said successful managers need to have faith.  He said he was suspicious of anyone who made a big deal about having faith because more wars had been started and people killed over conflicts about faith than over anything else.  I considered his point and replied that the faith on which I rely is an individual’s essential belief in and acknowledgement of God.  However, it was my firm belief that individuals’ expressions of their faith had helped and saved (and continue to help and save) many times more lives than were hurt and lost in conflicts that were wrongly described as motivated by faith.  We ended up not agreeing.

It is my firm belief that successful managers need to have faith.  Faith is the first necessary ingredient for this journey we all must take.

That faith is in the soul of the successful manager and it is that manager’s own personal light.  That light illuminates the manager’s authentic self.  It is “. . . this precious treasure – this light and power that now shine within us . . .” (2 Corinthians 4:7).  It guides the manager throughout the workday, during interactions and in decision making.  It is the light in the open door that makes colleagues comfortable to come in and talk.  It is the light of the manager’s credibility.  It is the light of conscience.  It is the essence of the manager’s spirit and humanity.  While it may seem easy to put a cover over it, it takes an awful lot of effort to extinguish that light. 

Think about people who give deathbed confessions and ask for forgiveness at their final hour.  It would seem that at that point in a life, a confession wouldn’t mean much to the confessor, after all he or she is checking out, right?  I guess they do it because they want to check out with the light on, not off. 

For some people, that light is visible with the human eye.  Some thirty-five years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Mother Theresa at a church in the South Bronx - me and 300
other privileged people.  She came to speak at the opening of one of her missions in New York City.  Sitting in a pew in the back of the church, I stared at this tiny, short figure of a person dressed in white standing in front of the altar, surrounded by dozens of taller, bigger figures.  Mother Theresa, however, was the only figure that was shining.  Yes she was glowing, literally.  It wasn’t because there was a spotlight on her: this was a poor and simple church in a devastated neighborhood, it didn’t have any spotlights.  And at that time, unlike now, my vision was certified 20/20.  Was I imagining this singular glow?  My wife nudged me and asked, “Do you see it?”  “The glow around Mother Theresa?” I asked in reply.  “Yeah, that glow,” she responded.  We both turned to our friend who had accompanied us.  Even though there were tears streaming down our friend’s face, she could see it too.  It was a powerful light, even more so when Mother Theresa insisted upon greeting and blessing each person present that day, as we filed out the door one at a time.  Face to face, with Mother Theresa grasping my hand and saying, “God bless you,” the light from her was dazzling.

Listen to this one finding:

“. . . ‘A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America,’ published in October (1999) by Jossey-Bass, found that employees who work for organizations they consider to be spiritual are less fearful, less likely to compromise their values, and more able to throw themselves into their jobs.”

Isn’t that the organization you want to build and represent?  Isn’t that the employee and manager you want to be?

This essential faith requires us as managers to believe in and demonstrate compassion for one another.  I remind myself daily to practice compassion and to be a compassionate example, especially for my colleagues and my children.  I admit to lapses in this regard but I catch myself quickly because I realize that my faith cannot be real without compassion as its expression. 

The Logic of Compassion
There are times when I have been in disagreement or angry with a colleague or friend and I have found myself steaming inside to “get back” at that person!  I admit it, I’m not perfect and I bet you’ve had similar thoughts in these situations as well.  But I let those thoughts evaporate as I cool off that steam and my faith counters by listening to the logic of compassion.

This logical compassion isn’t about inaction or surrender – it’s about compassionate action that is motivated by my self respect.  Instead of telling myself to “not sink to
someone else’s level,” I am aware that I don’t want to sink below my own standards and values.  I make that choice, comparing the expression of me to my authentic self.  Logical compassion requires that I respect myself; acknowledge and utilize the ambiguities of each situation; look long term at the consequences of my responses; and show respect for the person with whom I’m in disagreement.  Have anger, false pride, some other issue, or inattention prevented me from listening to the other person and responding, with an open heart?

These considerations don’t mean that sometimes my response won’t be seen by the other person as negative and unwanted.  Being faithful to myself and to what I believe, I use my leadership tools guided by logical compassion to respond appropriately, including with an honest criticism, a redress, a discipline or a termination.  These responses are done with openness, fairness, honesty and respect.

The Light Shines Through
A number of times in my work life I’ve had to terminate the employment of colleagues, almost always in one on one situations, not mass layoffs.  In a number of these situations, some time later I’ve come across these individuals again and they’ve told me two things.

  1. Thank you for the respectful way in which you treated me during a difficult time.
  2. Being fired turned out to be a blessing in disguise; I just couldn’t see that at the time.


Surprising?  It still is to me but it’s true.  It really isn’t about what you need to do (unless you will be violating your own humanity) as much as it is about how you are motivated to do it.  When you take your lead from within yourself, from the light of your faith, even the most difficult management decisions will be morally clear and practically sound.

Four times so far in my life I’ve been directed to end the employment of colleagues who had become my personal friends.  I will tell you upfront that all remained my personal friends.  My experience with one in particular, Wayne, is an abiding lesson for me.

Wayne and I became instant friends during my first two months in a new company.  Wayne led one of the company’s expanding product areas and I was the human resource leader.  We met at a staff meeting and I was taken by Wayne’s natural charm and his openness.  Wayne hailed from Texas and his smooth, considered style of speech told me he was a proud son of that great state.  If you met him, you’d like him – he just had a naturally likable personality.  When he and I struck up a conversation, I realized there was a lot more to him than just charm.  His insight about the people with whom he worked was on target.  He was grounded securely in a set of personal values that respected each person as an individual and an equal. 

At the heart of his values was his commitment as a born again Christian.  He didn’t announce it or flaunt it, he lived it.  At a point in our relationship when we talked about faith, Wayne said simply, “I’m a Christian, born again and that’s how I live my life.”

Soon after we met, I began asking Wayne to keep his eyes and ears open for specific issues in the various company offices to which he traveled regularly.  I knew that not only would he be able to hear what was on folks’ minds in the company, but he was also
trusted by every one of our colleagues. 

For three years Wayne served the company, giving all of his efforts to try to right-size a problem product.  Further complicating his work was a convoluted profit and loss system that hid inefficiencies and shifted losses so that some products looked to be better performers than they really were at the expense of other products’ performance.  I watched Wayne work through these roadblocks.  He never lost his self respect, his faith or his compassion.  It would have been easy, almost understandable, if he had blamed others for the problems he encountered and the battles he had to fight.  He didn’t. 

At the end of his tenure, Wayne’s managers decided he wasn’t the person they wanted to continue leading the product.  They wanted a different approach.  I was directed to relieve Wayne of his command, with the help of the chief operating officer.  Wayne was traveling to my office for a meeting and I discussed with the COO how we would break the news of his firing to Wayne.  We agreed that we respected him too much to make him travel all the way from Texas to the east coast to be fired and turned back around afterward.  We reached him on his cellphone and told him the news.  I said, “Wayne, you really don’t need to come here for a day so that we can fire you.  Do you want to stay home and be with your family?”

Wayne responded, “Tony, thank you.  I’m going to come to you.  This is a difficult time and you and (the COO) may need me to help you through it.”

I’d say I was a bit taken aback by his words.  We need him to help us through this!?  He was the one being fired.  But Wayne didn’t approach it that way.  He knew we were anguished to have to do this and his concern was for us.  The three of us met the next day and discussed the details.  At the end of the termination meeting, Wayne asked us, “Are you fellas okay?  I know this is hard on you guys and I want you to know I respect both of you.  This doesn’t affect our friendship.”  I thought I would be consoling him but it turned out Wayne was comforting me.

Being fired didn’t dim Wayne’s inner light.  If anything, it shone more brightly.  Wayne became a successful senior manager in a company in Texas, blessed to be able to work in a respectful environment that utilized his talents and to be close to his strong and faithful family, for which he gave thanks.

You and I choose how we live our lives.  More properly, we make hundreds of small choices each day that add up to the sum of our lives.  In baseball an inch either way means a hit or an out.  In football an inch can mean first down or punt.  Everything we need to help us make the right choices and go those inches in our journeys successfully, we already possess. 

Our most important choice is how we are going to use all of the best within us to achieve and sustain success.



“There is a destiny that makes us sisters and brothers.  None of us goes his way alone.  All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”  Alicia Appleman-Jurman, Holocaust survivor and author of Alicia, My Story

About the book - The Faithful Manager
about the Author - Anthony E. Shaw
Reviews for the book
Purchase The book
Click to enlarge cover
“Tony has a unique ability to consistently balance his role as leader, business partner, manager and human. Tony is smart, passionate, highly ethical and always likeable. He is an excellent executive and leader.”
Dr. Terry Ebert, Managing Director The Ayers Group