Book Review: Fairness Is Overrated

Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace, by Tim Stevens

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

Coming in the wake of books by such Christian business thinkers like John Maxwell [1] comes a book that serves as an unofficial weekly devotional that largely follows Maxwell’s lead in seeking to clothe churches with financial benefits from business leaders while providing some sort of religious legitimacy to actions of businessmen, including layoffs and advice about when and how to fire workers, often suddenly and with the use of separation contracts. There is a very small number of scriptural references in this book, all the more remarkable given the author’s long experience in serving as a leader in a parachurch organization referred to often, as most readers with a Christian background would expect there to be more explicitly biblical advice, but perhaps that would be unwelcome to the audience of business leaders.

The book is organized into four parts and 52 chapters. The four parts involve self-leadership (being a leader worth following), finding the right people, building a healthy culture, and leading confidently in a crisis. Many of the chapters give information that would not be out of place in a book by the Covey family about trust, seeking first to understand, or gaining private victories before seeking public ones. The chapters deal with the issue of communication many times in different aspects, and give very worldly but also practical advice. At its best, the advice contains some surface level understanding of scattered scriptures, as well as personal stories that one can relate to about the importance of being open and showing some “smart” vulnerability that is nonetheless not too calculated. It gives advice that can be useful (especially when differentiating between fairness and justice) but not advice that will necessarily cause a business leader to question the ethics of how his (or her) company is run.

There are some elements of this advice that seem somewhat contradictory, in that the book focuses on trying to learn from those who have succeeded but talking mostly about areas of potential failure. At times the advice has the feel of trying to navigate through an area where there are no easy rules and a limited amount of biblical application of the relevant laws of business that appear in the Bible, where principles are given from management books and given a thin veneer of Christianity rather than being biblical principles with a thin veneer of business language to explain the truths of the Bible to business leaders. Sometimes the advice seems particularly troubling, as when the author advocates taking a vacation from church for pastors and believers, and encourages the use of volunteers to avoid paying for positions like receptionist of a church building to give greater money to pay for church leaders, and also considers a spouse staying at home with children to be a selfish or unwise financial decision, which is a bit too much of viewing family in the context of mammon, rather than letting work find a proper balance as serving the family. Despite these problems, though, the book does present some savvy advice that ought to appeal to a practical business leader looking for a faith that largely endorses business as is and does not present too much unpleasant biblical analysis that would demand too much personal and organizational change on a deep level.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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