The goal of Leaders Offline program is to create an “offline” environment where CEOs who are Christians, can reflect on specific business issues in the context of their faith teachings and marketplace realities.
Our experience is that there are few forums in which fellow CEOs can gather in privacy to ponder, discuss freely, and learn new ways to apply faith teachings to the opportunities and responsibilities faced by today’s corporate leaders. The Leaders Offline are invitation-only events that provide a special chance to do just that.
Each Leaders Offline event is unique, built around the issues and personalities of the gathered CEOs. However, the design, flow, and results follow a general pattern. Each event is held at the office of one of the CEOs who serve as host. The hosting CEOs present live case studies to the group— not business school cases about other companies — of real situations from their business that they have not yet resolved. Facilitated by David Miller, who is conversant in both business and theological matters, the group then engages in a discussion of the case, drawing on the group’s collective business experience, biblical wisdom, and theological insights.
The attendees of this invitation-only event are all peer level CEOs, business owners, and managing partners, and in some cases senior government or non-profit leaders. The invitees convene for an informal dinner the night before the working session, during which David welcomes and engages the group, breaking the ice and building trust among the attendees. The next morning, the group convenes at the hosting CEO’s office. After a brief business/biblical reflection to set the stage, the hosting CEO(s) presents his or her case study. We analyze and discuss the cases in small groups, and reconvene as whole to share and learn from each other. The event wraps up over an informal lunch and closing reflection period.
The case study portion of the Leaders Offline events has covered a wide range of topics, including:
Leaders Offline has its roots in an organization called The Avodah Institute, co-founded by C. William Pollard, chairman emeritus of the ServiceMaster Company, and David Miller, now executive director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture (former president of The Avodah Institute, and senior banking executive). Bill and David recognized that many business leaders felt a gap between their Sunday worship and their Monday work. In practice, they lived a bifurcated life, where faith and work were not integrated or seen as mutually beneficial. The Avodah Institute and its Leaders Offline events were launched to redress this problem of compartmentalization, and to help CEOs integrate the claims of their faith with the demands of their work.
In 2003, the mission and work of the Avodah Institute was transferred and merged into the new Yale Center for Faith & Culture based in Yale University Divinity School. Avodah’s mission and work is now undertaken through the Center’s Ethics and Spirituality in the Workplace program.
The Leaders Offline events can be done on a national or regional basis. Each mode has its own advantages. National gatherings bring together leaders and experiences representing broader geographic and industry issues. And regional gatherings enable participants more easily to stay in touch and continue the friendships and relationships of trust that develop during the event.
David has convened and facilitated these Leaders Offline gatherings before, in partnership with other hosting CEOs. The first Leaders Offline was hosted by the Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo in his board room in Purchase, NY. Other Leaders Offline events have been held in Orlando, FL hosted by the Chairman of SunTrust Bank, and in Fargo, ND hosted by the Chairman and CEO of Amity Technology. The Fargo group will hold its second annual Leaders Offline in 2006.
One of the most successful and ongoing Leaders Offline events is in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN and was first hosted by Ken Melrose, Chairman and CEO of the Toro Company. With Ken’s ongoing leadership and participation, the Twin Cities group will hold its fourth annual Leaders Offline in 2006. These Leaders Offline events in the Twin Cities have been hosted by the CEOs of Piper Jaffray, Naegele Communications, Creative Cartons, Dane Industries, and Entegris, Inc.
Business leaders in other parts of the country have expressed interest in starting Leaders Offline events in their city or region. Ken Melrose, now the retired Chairman and CEO of the Toro Company, has teamed up with David Miller and the Yale Center for Faith & Culture to help launch and lead Leaders Offline events in other parts of the country. If you are interested to learn more, please contact David Miller.