Gini Dietrich

Mormons Make Better Leaders

By: Gini Dietrich | June 22, 2011 | 
211

Some of you may not know that I grew up in Utah. The inevitable question, after I tell people that is, “Are you Mormon?”

Yes, I was raised Mormon. Through a series of family events and some hypocrisy with some of the members in our ward, I stopped going to church when I was 18, right before I graduated from high school. And then I went to a Catholic university (Creighton), where I was required to take a different theology course every semester.

Because of that, I learned (and grew to believe) in other philosophies; other theories.

I’ve never found my way back to the church. I am what one would call a Jack Mormon (not that they label or judge people for decisions made outside of the church).

But I’m always drawn to stories, articles, and leadership lessons from the Mormon faith. It’s true I’ve been away from the church longer than I was in it, but it’s still my roots.

That’s why I was fascinated to read this article in BusinessWeek about Mormons, their missions, and how they produce leaders.

If you don’t know, Mormon men, at the age of 19, leave college to serve a mission. Some are sent overseas, some are sent to third-world countries, and some stay stateside. Women can serve missions, too, but not until they’re 21. You see, they typically go to college to get their MRS degree, dating and then marrying the men who are just coming back from their missions. But that’s not for all and there are some women who serve missions and then live a long and fruitful married life.

Gary Cornia, dean of Mormon-run Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management, is often asked what makes Mormons so successful.

I’m not going to say we beat everybody out, but we do have a reputation. And one of the defining opportunities for young men and young women is the mission experience.

Because of the mission experience, there are Mormon leaders at Marriott International, American Express, American Motors, Dell Computers, Lufthansa, Fisher-Price, Life Re, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Madison Square Garden, La Quinta Properties, PricewaterhouseCooper, and Stanley Black & Decker. The head of human resources at Citigroup is Mormon, and in 2010 Goldman Sachs hired 31 grads from BYU, the same number it hired from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Steve Young is Mormon. So is Steven Covey. And David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue. And Mitt Romney, who is running for President.

Heck! Maybe someone you work with is Mormon.

I bring all of this up not to say Mormons definitely do make better leaders, but that there is something to be said for their mission experience. Just like there is something to be said for those who study abroad and learn about different cultures before joining the workforce.

So, the next time you crinkle your nose, think “whoa that person is weird,” or ask the person how many wives their dad had when you hear they’re Mormon, think about all the good they’ve done, both on their missions and in corporate America.

And remember, polygamy is against the law, no matter which religion you practice.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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211 Comments on "Mormons Make Better Leaders"

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johnfalchetto
4 years 10 months ago
I’ve stopped putting labels on people a long time ago. Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhists, there are bad apples everywhere. But there are also great people who try to help others, regardless of what they believe. I like the idea of the mission, going abroad, learning different ways, experiencing challenges outside our own comfort zone. Mormons make great expats. This is what makes the strength of the US, each community pulling together for the common good. Many countries could look and learn instead of shooting each other up because their neighbor down the street doesn’t go to the same church.… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@johnfalchetto Oh you know what? I’ll bet Mormons do make great expats! You should blog about that. :)

I live in a country where freedom of religion is part of what makes us American. But I know there are countries where you are killed because of the God you believe in. It’s sad and I wish I could say that will change in my lifetime, but I know that’s being overly optimistic. I wish everyone thought the same way you do.

KatieFassl
4 years 10 months ago

How timely, Gini! Right now I’m watching Jon Huntsman, another Morman, talk about his 2012 Presidential Campaign, on The Today Show!

kmtirpitz
kmtirpitz
4 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich A long way from Illinois to Utah. I forget the compelling nature for leaving. somebody didn’t like thier way. Me either

KenMueller
KenMueller
4 years 10 months ago

I’m fortunate that church has been a big part of my life, with my dad being a pastor (not Mormon, though). I never got to do a mission thing, but my kids are. My 19yo is headed to the Czech Republic for the 2nd straight year to work in a camp, and he went to Jamaica the year before. My 16yo is headed to Haiti this year to help out down there. I couldn’t be prouder, and I know that it will go a long way into shaping their character and giving them leadership skills.

bryanwillmert
bryanwillmert
4 years 10 months ago
Great post Gini. You have no mystery to see where I have sat on the religion aspect since I have worked for a church for the last 4 years. The interesting fact to this is that anyone from a faith movement should be an upright person of high morals and integrity. Why is it that they are not? Like you found in the mormon church, humanity creeps in and we are all taken over by our weakest parts whether that be by greed, immorality, or whatever it is. Some great believing people that are strong business people that can be… Read more »
bdorman264
bdorman264
4 years 10 months ago
I think it’s the mission philosophy sending the men out and taking responsibility allows them to mature and see what sometimes hard and uncomfortable work looks like. This gives them a more realistic look at the world and what it takes to succeed. My ‘mission’ was the Army which I don’t necessarily recommend especially when there is a war going on; but I think all men should serve in some way at that period of their lives to allow them to mature and give them a sense of responsibility. It’s very easy to see why this model works. And polygamy… Read more »
bdorman264
bdorman264
4 years 10 months ago

@KenMueller Hey Ken, I’m going to a meeting today at 10:30 am w/ Ken Mueller from the Travelers Insurance Company. Must be a pretty cool guy, huh?

KenMueller
KenMueller
4 years 10 months ago

@bdorman264 wow, there are a lot of me out there. I wonder if he is Muelleriffic….you’ll have to let me know. And if he disgraces the name, tell him he needs to legally change it…

bdorman264
bdorman264
4 years 10 months ago

Hey Gini; BTW my best friend is from Omaha but he was a Husker. He’s the president of Citrosuco for their US operations. In fact, he is there now visiting his father.

Shonali
4 years 10 months ago
I often wondered whether you grew up Mormon, but I never thought to ask because a) it didn’t seem polite, and b) it didn’t seem relevant. Now I know! I completely agree with you on the values that a mission experience brings, though I’ve never been on one. Actually, I think this can be said for anyone who has roots in a faith that believes in service. I was brought up in the Church of North India, which is basically the Indian equivalent of the Episcopalian church. I haven’t been to church in years – I don’t want to be… Read more »
bdorman264
bdorman264
4 years 10 months ago

@KenMueller I’ll put him on notice and let him know the bar has already been set pretty high…….:)

bradmarley
bradmarley
4 years 10 months ago

First of all, I love that you used an image from Orgazmo to accompany this post. Well done.

Second, we have an intern currently working with us who is Mormon and went to BYU. He has already completed his mission and now he’s making his way into the corporate world. I can tell he’s different from other interns, in terms of his maturity and knack for communications. In fact, we seem to draw a majority of communications interns from BYU. Coincidence? Maybe. But perhaps your points above play a role in their development.

KatieFassl
4 years 10 months ago

@bryanwillmert Do you go to Soul City? I have a friend who is a member, and has told me a lot about it.

faybiz
4 years 10 months ago

G- I gotta tell you the stories of how we were SUPER kind to our missionaries but BLEW their minds. I’ve always had Mormon friends and always marveled at what it instilled both positive and mind-bending.

Makes me wonder about the upcoming election and how it might be possible to see a Mormon candidate how it compares to JFK as the first Catholic president.

BenjaminHofmann
BenjaminHofmann
4 years 10 months ago

I grew up Mormon and am still heavily involved with the Church. I consider the time I spent on a mission invaluable on many levels. It is amazing what mostly 19-22 year old men and women can accomplish with a little training and trust. Thanks for the post!

billprettyman
billprettyman
4 years 10 months ago
Gini, great article on serving. I love the idea of going on a year to serve on a mission especially at 19. It helps a young person to understand that there is a bigger world out there and that they are not the center of the world. The mission helps a person develop a servant’s mindset that we are here to serve and help others. My boys have been on several 1-2 week mission trips and believe they are better people for it so I can imagine the difference a year would make. I also like that you linked spiritual… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@KatieFassl I saw that, too!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@KenMueller I absolutely believe helping others and traveling abroad helps you think about things differently and become a more understanding and sensitive leader. Your kids are very lucky and you SHOULD be proud.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@bdorman264 @KenMueller Of course Bill’s Ken is not Muellerific. Like you even have to ask.

bryanwillmert
bryanwillmert
4 years 10 months ago

@KatieFassl I don’t. If i lived in chicago that is where we would attend. I was able to be there for their launch weekend and the team are great friends! @patrickreyes has visited there as well!

wabbitoid
4 years 10 months ago

Serving is good, but I think the “outsider status” is also important. A little perspective on the world from a strong half-step back always helps. I know this is a big part of Mennonite life – but I’m not much of a “leader” so whadda I know? :-)

Excellent article and I can’t wait to see how people take this one. :-)

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
4 years 10 months ago

Who pays for the mission experience – the church or the family? I’m just curious….I didn’t know about the mission experience. Too bad TV doesn’t touch on that instead of creating shows like Big Love.

TravisMClemens
TravisMClemens
4 years 10 months ago

Interesting take, Gini. Having done the mission thing in Italy (and coming from a VERY small Utah town), I can say

TravisMClemens
TravisMClemens
4 years 10 months ago

Interesting take, Gini. Having done the mission thing in Italy for 2 years (and coming from a VERY small Utah town), I can confirm the experience had a profound impact on my life. I learned another culture, other ways of seeing the world, how to present myself and be an official representative for a large organization (which I think translates very well to the PR/marketing field). Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

patrickreyes
patrickreyes
4 years 10 months ago

@bryanwillmert @KatieFassl @patrickreyes That place is fantastic. Great vision and expectation of growth for anyone that goes there regardless of the level and experience of their faith. You should check it out! I’m sure @jarrettstevens and @jeannemstevens would love to meet you!

KatieFassl
4 years 10 months ago

@patrickreyes @bryanwillmert@jeannemstevens , any chance you know my friend, Mallory Minor?

KatieFassl
4 years 10 months ago

@patrickreyes@bryanwillmert — @livefyre is being goofy, this morning. I typed a longer response, than what is posted above :). I said something along the lines of: I would love to check it out. I probably won’t be a regular attendee, as I’m waaaay out in the ‘burbs :-P, and go to Community Christian in Lemont; but I love visiting other churches. jeannemstevens & jarrettsteves , any chance you know my friend, Mallory Minor?

KatieFassl
4 years 10 months ago

D’oh! I’m batting a thousand here! I meant: jarrettstevens

KarenBice
KarenBice
4 years 10 months ago

I understand Mitt Romney did his tour in France and was there for Mai 68. Great post, Gini!

JosephManna
JosephManna
4 years 10 months ago
Interesting. Thanks for sharing this and it’s nice to read about your perspective on the Mormon faith and the relation to leadership in corporate America. I’m not in total agreement, but I appreciate your perspective. I’m more willing to say that a strong sense of discipline and strong ties to the community has a greater impact than one’s religious affiliation. I think no matter the faith, anyone who was raised with a good sense of self and others will probably be more successful in business. However, I will say that hearing about others missions are indeed interesting, compelling and offers… Read more »
ArveyColumbus
ArveyColumbus
4 years 10 months ago
When it came time to go to college (back in the day), my parents said they would pay for tuition up to a Bachelors degree then it would be, “Honey, get a job.” So I graduated at 17 and couldn’t WAIT to get the heck out of Dodge (actually Chicago). When it came time to choose the colleges I wanted my college test scores to be sent to I chose UCLA. My dad didn’t have the same opinion. So off to BYU I went and I was pretty determined that I would not be looking for my MRS degree and… Read more »
Marcus_Sheridan
4 years 10 months ago

@PattiRoseKnight The individual does. Most young men work for years during their teens to go on their mission. As you might imagine, this forms an even stronger sense of purpose with the work.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
4 years 10 months ago

@Marcus_Sheridan Thanks Marcus. I really had no idea about the mission experience. It sounds like a truly great idea. I learned something new today!

JMattHicks
4 years 10 months ago

@KatieFassl Hey Katie, Jeremy from Livefyre here. Sorry about the snag in your last comment. Would you mind shooting us an an e-mail at support@livefyre.com with details of what happened? We’d like to take a look into it to make sure it doesn’t happen again!

Thanks!

Adrian_Dayton
Adrian_Dayton
4 years 10 months ago
Gini, thanks for painting Mormons in such a positive light. I’m a proud card-carrying member of the Mormon Church, served a mission in the Atacama Deserts of Chile for two years and gained some amazing experience there as well as becoming fluent in Spanish. “The mission” as we refer to it in Mormon culture teaches young kids some amazing things about leadership, service, and how to start a conversations with almost anybody. These are skills that I’m sure will serve me for the rest of my life. I personally think that the mission experience is so valuable because it teaches… Read more »
Marcus_Sheridan
4 years 10 months ago
I must admit Gini, for some time I wanted to talk with you about the Mormon thing, because I know you had some bad experiences as a youth, but I figured we’d get our opportunity, as you and I have a unique similarity here in that when you were leaving the church, I was joining it. Most people, including my readership, are not aware that I’m Mormon. I don’t talk much about it at all, but it’s a major part of my life. I joined the church as a 16 year old in highschool, against the will of my family… Read more »
Marcus_Sheridan
4 years 10 months ago

@Adrian_Dayton Adrian, le felicito por haber servido in Chilo, yo estuve alla tambien en la parte al Sur— Osorno. Que lindo el pais,no?? 😉

Tinu
4 years 10 months ago
The idea of a mission experience is absolutely fascinating, especially having it ingrained in culture at a young age. I guess because my grandfather had multiple wives (in another country where it’s legal), Mormons didn’t strike me as strange, nor did their beliefs. Almost every faith I’ve studied has some belief that I think is odd, including my own, such that nothing seems strange any more. This is one faith I never went below the surface of, and I admire you for sharing that piece of your background. Definitely inspired to learn more now, particularly seeing how going on a… Read more »
Marcus_Sheridan
4 years 10 months ago
@PattiRoseKnight As a matter of fact, I was saving for my mission while in college. This was tough to do, as I was supporting myself completely, and when it came time to leave I only had about $2000 or the roughly $9,000 that was needed for the 2 year time period. At that point, an anonymous member of the church in my area wrote a check for 7k, paying for the whole thing. To this day, I do not know who that person was, but I sure hope to thank him/her when I’m blessed with that opportunity, as that act… Read more »
MimiMeredith
4 years 10 months ago
Gini, this is one of many topics I’d love to visit with you about at length over a glass of wine (here’s to your Jack Mormon status on that!) I think that mission work, Peace Corp, Teach for America or any opportunity to fully immerse oneself in life beyond ones own comfort zone to serve and understand others is a tremendous asset to leadership. (I had a life-shaping experiencing serving in Honduras, and I’m a Presbyterian :)!) I think the other thing that empowers Mormon leadership is their family structure and commitment to high standards and delayed gratification. They don’t… Read more »
M_Koehler
M_Koehler
4 years 10 months ago

Gini, I love the fact that you are using a pic from Orgazmo. That’s all.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@bryanwillmert The thing I love about Chick-fil-A is they believe so strongly in observing the Sabbath, all of their stores are closed on Sundays.

KatieFassl
4 years 10 months ago

@JMattHicks Just emailed the problem, Jeremy. Thank you!

Marcus_Sheridan
4 years 10 months ago

@johnfalchetto Do you know what else John? Mormon make great friends of expats too. 😉

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@bdorman264 Can you imagine having more than one wife!?! Mr. D always says he can barely handle me.

I love writing different posts like this because I learn so much about you guys. For instance, I didn’t know you were in the Army. As for your friend, the entire states bleeds Husker red. It was annoying.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@Shonali You’re so funny! People ask all the time. I actually don’t mind because it gives me a chance to talk about things like you mention (fellowship, service, treating your body like a temple) and dissuade some of the poor perception.

JMattHicks
4 years 10 months ago

@KatieFassl Thanks Katie, just got your e-mail and we’re on it now!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@bradmarley Part of it is that he is more mature; he’s likely a couple of years older than other interns. But I do think serving a mission, and others, helps in the development of any of us.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@faybiz I would love to hear these stories! And, I agree, it’ll be interesting to see if Romney or Huntsman can make it past the primaries.

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