David L. Steward – chairman and founder of World Wide Technology (WWT) – is promoting a new book. Leadership by the Good Book is co-authored by Brandon K. Mann, managing partner and CEO of Kingdom Capital, a private equity and stewardship firm based on Christian principles. Mann also founded Biblical Business Training, and the book points towards that training in business leadership.
The basic argument of the book is simple. As Steward told The American, business leaders who focus on the bottom line, rather than a higher power, won’t get very far in material or spiritual pursuits. “We should be seeking an eternal return on investment,” he said.
As chairman and founder of one of the nation’s largest African American-owned businesses, a systems integrator and supply chain solutions provider with revenue exceeding $10 billion in 2017, this man might know something about success. Clearly, that success reflects consummate skills in making deals, marketing, integrating systems and providing supply chain solutions, but those skills are not what Steward wants to talk or write about.
He wants to talk and write about where he turns in times of despair, and it’s always to the same place.
“In 1993, my car had been repossessed. I was in despair. The banks had shut us down. Our creditors were all over us. Some people in our organization had reallocated some of our money into their own pocket, and we had fired the person who did that. It was a dark, dark day,” he remembered.
“Literally, it was a dark, cloudy day. The electricity had gone off in the office. I was in a completely dark place. I received a phone call in that darkness. It was my mother in law reminding me of my faith.”
Dorothy Willis, his mother in law, read him Psalms 91, which knows something about darkness: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night.” Then she prayed for him.
“My mother in love called me on that day, praying for me,” Steward said. “My mother in love called me to remind me to never, ever forget that this Book is a light to world that will hopefully lead you back to the word of God to receive it in a way you never have before and renew your faith.”
He wants his and Mann’s book to do for others what that phone call from his “mother in love” did for him. “You can even bring this light into a work place,” he said, “and revive the spirit of your organization.”
Steward and Mann planned and wrote their book in better times, and they know that they are promoting it at a moment of widespread grief, uncertainty and social distancing that is taking their toll globally. This crisis is deeply personal to Steward in connection to his own mother, Dorothy Steward.
“My dear mother just turned 92, and she has health issues,” Steward said. “With prayer, she is still with us. She has been in hospice the last two months. Putting her in hospice was the most difficult thing to do. We thought she only had a few hours to live. She has eight children, and we all prayed. She is still with us.”
One of the wealthiest people in the world sounds like any trembling soul when talking about praying over his mother near the end of her long life. The image of darkness occurred to him again.
“It’s a dark, difficult time,” Steward said. “She is now in isolation in Kansas City, and I am here. Her eight children aren’t able to be around her. I can’t be there with her. But our connection will always be with me. It’s embedded in me, the love she shared with me. A hug would be nice, but the love of a mother and son over the years is so deeply embedded, it doesn’t matter. We can use any media and I can see her face, and it still shines through.”
So, yes, David Steward knows something about this COVID-19 pandemic.
“This pandemic magnifies this need for light,” he said. “In this darkness, people are looking for answers. In this darkness, the light can be the light of the word of God. If anybody is looking for a way through this and sees a pathway of light through this book to reconnect to their faith in a way they had not done before, then mission accomplished.”