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JetBlue founder driven to live private, public life the Mormon way

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 10:14 p.m. MDT

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Editor's note: A chance conversation about his Mormon faith with a friend in the publishing business led to an offer for Jeff Benedict to write about "The Mormon Way of Doing Business." For his book, Benedict interviewed eight prominent CEOs who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Deseret Morning News will share six short excerpts from the book on Sundays, concluding Dec. 31. For more information about the book, go online to www.jeffbenedict.com.

At a time when regulators and prosecutors are exposing widespread greed and corruption on Wall Street and high-profile CEOs are being indicted for fraud and conspiracy and fired for everything from looting their own companies to extramarital affairs with employees, my editor wanted to know what it is about these Mormon CEOs that makes them different. How do they manage their time? What and how much to they delegate? How do they negotiate? How do they treat employees, business partners, and competitors? How do they handle ethical dilemmas? What is the secret to sustaining healthy marital and family relations while maintaining their competitive edge in the relentless corporate environment that expects a 24/7 work pace? Do they truly give 10 percent of their earnings to the church, and if so, why? What drives them? And how do they handle power, personal wealth and control over vast corporate resources?
There are plenty of exceptional non-Mormon CEOs who have achieved great personal and professional success while holding true to their values and maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity. But this book is an examination of an unusually successful group of Mormon business executives who have remained true to their values. ...
(David) Neeleman (founder and CEO of JetBlue Airways) told me that the fact that his customers, his employees, his business partners, and his competitors know he's a Mormon motivates him to work extra hard at being fair, honest and trustworthy, and leading by example. "I believe the Mormon Church is one of the most misunderstood organizations on the planet," Neeleman said. "Yet we are held to a higher standard. I have to be an example and live my life in the business world the way people believe I should."
All the CEOs I interviewed for this book expressed a sense of responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner that would never bring disrespect or shame to the church they belong to. But no one was more spirited in his comments than Neeleman. "If people can see me not just as the CEO of JetBlue, but as someone who cares deeply about others and is a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ, I feel driven to do that," Neeleman said. "I'm very well aware that when other people in business have problems come up, their religion doesn't come up or attach to the problem. I think we should be honored to be held to a higher standard. I'm not perfect. But I try to live my life the same whether I'm at work or at home or wherever."


From the book "THE MORMON WAY OF DOING BUSINESS: Leadership and Success Through Faith and Family" by Jeff Benedict. Copyright 2007 by Jeff Benedict. Reprinted by permission of Warner Business Books Inc., New York. All rights reserved. Cover price: $25.99.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company