Speaker Spotlight: Arthur Brooks

Business for the Common Good 2021
by Kristi Rathbun

Now more than ever, it is critical that business leaders look beyond the bottom line and begin crafting a future centered around serving our customers, suppliers, employees, and ultimately, our communities. But where do we begin? Arthur C. Brooks, one of this year’s Business for the Common Good guest speakers, begins with love.

Speaker Spotlight: Arthur C. Brooks

Musician, author, social scientist, Harvard professor, husband and father. Arthur C. Brooks has a lifetime of experiences and a wealth of knowledge that contributes to his insightful perspectives on work, politics, and life. Brooks specializes in diving into science and philosophy, providing people with actionable steps and strategies to live better and happier lives. Common themes run throughout his work, from his podcasts to his books and the articles he pens for The Atlantic. Perhaps the strongest of these themes is love, and nowhere is that better demonstrated than in his most recent book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt

Love Your Enemies

What does it mean to disagree? Increasingly in America, to disagree is no longer to have a mere difference of opinion. People with different views are not just misguided or uninformed, but are morally corrupt. Brooks refers to this sad state of affairs as the “culture of contempt;” it’s a ravenous monster, a machine, an “outrage industrial complex that sustains itself by turning the dial to 11.” The metaphor is apt, and the consequences ripple over us each and every day. But the issue goes deeper than politics: the effects of a contemptuous culture permeate the various arenas of our lives, including the world of work. What can we do to combat such a terrible machine? We lead with love and with kindness. 

Brooks says it this way: “What we know in our hearts is this: In the end, it’s kindness and aspirational leadership, not coercion or contempt that bring sustained success.” Each of us has the power to influence the people around us. When we find ourselves in leadership positions the gravity of our influence increases. We have the ability to empower our coworkers and our employees, to ensure their success and to cultivate a culture that rejects contempt rather than nurtures it. Taking responsibility for our own sphere of influence, exemplifying kindness and what Brooks calls “authoritative leadership” are the best tools in our arsenal in the fight against the culture of contempt seeping into our places of work. 

Work-Love Balance

The theme of love runs throughout Brooks’ work and touches on diverse topics. In the episode “Work-Love Balance” from his podcast, he explores on this theme as it relates to our relationship with our work. What does it mean to love our jobs? In this episode, Brooks interviews psychologist Adam Grant, and together the two examine some good indicators of whether or not we will enjoy our work. The key, they say, is to find a place where you can exercise a bit of autonomy, where you have a chance to achieve a certain level of mastery, and where you are surrounded by people with common values and goals.

Is it important to love what we do? As it turns out, only about 15% of people world wide love their jobs. In the U.S., we have the happiness edge with about 30% of people who say they love what they do. How far should we go to increase that number? According to Brooks, having a connection to your job is an important part of life. “We need to love our work as much as we need to love our family and friends.” Why? Because work is where we spend the majority of our time, and the people we work with fill our schedules more than even our families. “Meaning and mission should be about serving people and learning a lot.”

To hear more from Arthur C. Brooks about how our attitudes towards work can help heal our divided culture, join us at Business for the Common Good.

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Kristi Rathbun

Kristi is a new addition to the Denver Institute for Faith & Work and serves as an intern. Writer, artist, and dreamer, Kristi spends her free time chasing her curiosity wherever it leads. She currently calls Greeley, Colorado home.