"The Most Effective Organization in the U.S.":
Leadership Secrets of the Salvation Army
Robert A. Watson and Ben Brown
Crown Publishers, 256 pages, $25

The Salvation Army is America's largest charity, but it is only when tragedy hits home that the evangelical movement's real message breaks through the fog.

For all the money raised by the Army, for all its publicity, and especially for all that the public "knows" about this group, its internal budgets are generally meager. Officers—as ordained ministers are called—get a weekly allowance, housing, a car, and money for uniforms, but the living is generally not luxurious.

Army founder William Booth, a pawnbroker's son who grew up in mean circumstances, was not an exponent of any "prosperity gospel," and neither are his followers.

How, then, does an organization keep good people, maintain a level of service, and earn the respect of millions, including President Bush, without huge payrolls? A recent national commander of the organization, Commissioner Robert Watson, attempts to explain this leadership phenomenon in "The Most Effective Organization in the U.S.," written with USA Today veteran Ben Brown. What's more, Watson and Brown propose that the basic traits of the Army's management and "branding" styles can translate into the realm of secular business.

On one level, this book should not be a surprise. With Jesus, CEO having spawned various imitators, the notion of applying rules from an evangelical movement to a corporation wrestling with market-share woes isn't that far-fetched.

As is the fashion with business volumes, this one—whose title comes from management guru Peter F. Drucker's upbeat assessment—is peppered with imperatives to "engage the spirit" or "lead by listening." ...

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