American business leader Dennis Bakke offered up some provocative and possibly even controversial concepts during a stop at Belmont University on his seven-week national book tour Wednesday. Bakke – known on Wall Street as the billionaire founder of AES Corp., an energy industry company with a radically different management process, and known in evangelical circles as a philanthropist and Christian thought-leader on the top of financial stewardship – spoke to an audience of about 100 students, faculty, staff and community members and then signed copies of his new book, Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job. His appearance was arranged by the university’s Spiritual Development office and co-hosted by the College of Business Administration.
There are two “great commissions” in the Bible, though that term is not used in scripture, said Bakke. One is the famous “Great Commission” that urges Christians to evangelize the world. The other, Bakke contends, is God’s command that Christians steward resources of the Lord to serve the world and meet the needs of the world.”
Bakke believes that business is the best vehicle to achieve that purpose.
“Did you ever notice that most of the heroes in the Bible work in secular organizations and do secular things?” he said. “Most of us have been called to secular settings as were most of the Biblical heroes, to serve the world and meet the needs of the world,” said Bakke.
“Business today is probably God’s best instrument for carrying out this mandate. It’s not non-profits, its not government, it’s not even schools. It’s business,” he said. “The purpose of business isn’t to make money. It’s to steward resources to meet the needs of the world. To serve others,” Bakke said. “It’s a very Christian thing. Christians ought to understand this better than anyone.”
Citing statistics that show that some 65 to 90 percent of Americans find their jobs “miserable to, at best, bearable,” and other statistics that show 75 percent of workers would like a different job, Bakke blamed business leaders for wholesale unhappiness at work.
“Along the way I realized that most working people were not experiencing joy. We spend most of our waking hours at work and yet we find it miserable. Work is supposed to be filled with joy,” he said. The key to a joyful workplace, he said, is delegating power and control to every person in the organization.
“Every person has to have a chance to have the ball in their hands, every once in awhile, at the end of the game.”
“Guess what I found out? The problem – the solution – was me. I was the boss. Why do bosses have fun? Because we have control. We have the ball in our hands all the time.”
Typically in a large business, the power of control and making decisions resides only at the top. “The only problem is, it ruins life for a lot of people,” Bakke said.
“I had to give up control. I had to sacrifice some of my fun. I had to limit myself to one major decision a year, and ask my leaders to do the same. Bosses like me have to have humility. We have to humble ourselves. That’s the main characteristic of a good leader.
“You’re not going to see it with Donald Trump on The Apprentice. You’re not going to see it when Jack Welch comes out with his book. You’re not going to see it in 99 percent of the organizations out there. But you, as Christians, ought to know better.”
“You must love the people around you, the people who are working with you. I’m not talking about romantic love – I’m talking about real, concerned love.”
Bakke co-founded the Mustard Seed Foundation. Inspired by the parable of the mustard seed found in Mark 4 and Matthew 13, the Mustard Seed Foundation seeks to be stewards by participating in the expansion and realization of the kingdom of God on earth by providing grants to churches and Christian organizations worldwide as they initiate a variety of Christian ministries including evangelism, discipleship, and economic empowerment.