execPepsico CEO Indra Nooyi. NICHOLAS KAMM—AFP/Getty Images


CEOs and faith. They’re two things we don’t usually associate, probably because people are careful to keep their personal lives as separate as possible from their work lives.

But last week I read a Time article about seven religious CEOs and It made me think – it makes sense. So many of the good qualities of a good leader (or CEO) not only stem from some belief system, but are also super helpful to doing the job well. Looking at the CEOs featured in the article, here are some examples:

Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo – Hindu

 ‘…cited her Hindu faith as a source of solace from the storms of guilt and stress…”There are times when the stress is so incredible between office and home, trying to be a wife, mother, daughter-in-law and corporate executive,” she said, “Then you close your eyes and think about a temple like Tirupati, and suddenly you feel ‘Hey–I can take on the world.’’

I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere that people who consider themselves religious also stress less – and isn’t it understandable? They realize that the world is bigger than them and their immediate problems, and that at the end of the day, other things are more important. I’m thinking that CEOs would really benefit from the resulting sense of calm! 

Donnie Smith, Tyson Foods, Inc. – Christian (Southern Baptist)

‘“I don’t think you can say, ‘I do my church stuff on Sunday between nine and noon, and the rest of the time I am either out for myself or running my business’,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2010, “My faith influences how I think, what I do, what I say.”’

Being the same person everywhere and all the time is a hard thing to do, but an important one. And especially so in this day or age, where it’s so easy to creat a more popular or flawless version of yourself online. But CEO or not, maintaining your integrity allows your family, friends, peers and employees to gain respect for you – because you know who you are and will not change on a whim.

Daniel P. Amos, Aflac Incorporated – Christian (United Methodist)

‘“Though it’s not a religious company, “faith is important at Aflac,” he said. Every employee receives a book called “The Aflac Way,” which outlines the company’s basic principles, ethics, and codes of conduct. “Almost all of those principles come in some way from Scripture, adapted for use in the workplace,” Paul Amos II said.’

Whether or not you’re religious, there are some values that are common to human beings –a respectful code of conduct. And where better applied than in the workplace? If people are treated fairly, they’re going to respond fairly, and do their job to the best of their ability. And if the CEO’s beliefs help to promote this, then all the better.

Pierre Omidyar, eBay Inc. (ex-CEO, current Chairman) – Buddhist

‘A follower of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, Omidyar has contributed generously to support that leader’s message and travels, both with his wife Pamela and through his foundation.’

I like this one. A CEO without religious beliefs may get more easily caught up in the money and selfishness, rather than the overall picture. But in this case you see a man who is able to contribute from his success to a bigger cause, to put it towards good, and to use it in a selfless way – he knows that money isn’t everything, and alone can’t be satisfying. When he’s no longer in a position of wealth or power, years down the track, he’ll still have meaning in his life – rather than a feeling of emptiness or uselessness.

James Tisch, Loews Corporation – Jewish

“But I consider myself a very good delegator. I like to involve myself in the important strategic mission and I like to leave everything else for other people to do. I say: if somebody else could do it, why should I do it? I am happy to surround myself with good people and have them do their jobs.”

A good CEO is one who can share the load: they are less of a dictator and more of a team member. In a company, every person and their role counts. It’s not a solitary effort – as in faith, where everyone thrives with support.

Arne M. Sorenson, Marriott International, Inc. – Christian (Lutheran)

‘“He’s not a master of the universe, which is the last thing we need around here. This is a company that goes on family values and a degree of humility.”’

Humility – it’s pretty self-explanatory, really. It’s hard enough to keep your head at an average size normally; can you imagine the struggle as a CEO? Having faith, and so knowing that you’re not the be-all and end-all, would be a helpful asset to staying real.

Brian K. Bedford, Republic Airways Holdings, Inc. – Roman Catholic

‘“I needed to be a whole person in all facets of my life each day.” The 52-year-old father of eight children’

Sometimes it’s hard to make an effort to give in all aspects of life, and even more so when your work schedule is very demanding. I think that having religious beliefs is one extra motivation to live all parts of life to the fullest. And a CEO certainly needs work-life balance! Faith would also help to develop the necessary strength of character to carry this out.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.