On Paying Attention: New and Selected PoemsChoosing GratitudeChoosing Gratitude 365 Days a YearLooking Around for GodLove & ProfitThe Servant LeaderSpirit of RetirementThe Book of Hard ChoicesReal PowerLife & WorkConfessions of an Accidental Businessman

Books By Jim Autry

On Paying Attention: New and Selected Poems. Jim Autry is the author of thirteen books, and his writings have appeared in many anthologies and magazines. Autry received considerable national attention when he was one of the poets featured in Bill Moyers’ special 1989 series, The Power of the Word, on PBS, and in Moyers’ 1995 book, The Language of Life. In 2012 Autry appeared on Moyers & Company on PBS, and his work has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Corner” on National Public Radio. Jim Autry's first book of poetry was published in 1983, his second in 1989 and since then, Jim has published poetry in almost all of his books, including those focusing on management and leadership. Jim's newest book, On Paying Attention: New and Selected Poems, is a selection of poetry from all his books, plus 25 new pieces.

On Paying Attention is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For On Paying Attention

"Jim Autry’s poems have long snatched my breath by the beautiful and impressive ways they reveal the life of the man—his good heart, his keen eye, his feeling for the experience of others."

          -Bill Moyers.

"Jim Autry's poems...still make me laugh, cry, wonder, and rejoice. I'm grateful for his voice in the world."

          - Betty Sue Flowers Editor,Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth.

"[Autry's] voice is one of patience and staying power, and we are better for it."

          - Lawrence Wells Publisher, Yoknapatawpha Press.

New Poetry From On Paying Attention

At The Air Force Reunion
Chaumont, France, July 4, 2006

A French woman is talking to me,
breath sour, teeth brown,
face fleshy, bosom heavy,
eyes sad, voice shaking,
"So hard for me this," she is saying,
and tells me about the love of her life,
gone these fifty years:
"I had his baby then he married a German girl,"
she says in a tone that makes me understand
that here the war is never really over.
She is crying silently.
"So hard for me this," she says.
"He was a pilot so tall so beautiful."

I am remembering the missions,
practice bombing runs on imaginary targets,
intense days of nuclear possibility,
drunken nights in the officers' club,
beer-drinking contests,
toasts to someone killed in an accident,
and of course the inevitable pilot talk
of sexual conquest.

She asks if I knew her pilot lover.
I say "No" yet I knew a dozen of him.
"I am looking for someone who knows him.
I want him to know he has a daughter,
and a grandson who is beautiful like him."

She asks then if she may hug me.

So here we are, two seventy-somethings,
hugging and crying together,
And I am thinking,
there's more than one kind of collateral damage.
- James A. Autry, On Paying Attention

Free Jazz Concert, Sanibel, 2014

In this ragged rendition
of Moonlight Serenade,
played with fading lips, unsure fingers,
who knows what memories
are aroused in this audience of gray faces:
close dancing perhaps in khaki uniforms,
big skirts, angora sweaters,
kisses, pledges of love, sad goodbyes,
evidenced now in this palm tree paradise
by nodding heads and tapping feet,
exchanges of knowing smiles,
a community of strangers transported
by this band of yesterday's musicians
passing through, as we all are, one last time.
- James A. Autry, On Paying Attention

Strategic Planning Advice

Here in the midst
of your planning and forecasting,
your future scenarios and contingencies,
consider this day.
This day, now, awaits your best work.
- James A. Autry, On Paying Attention


Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have. In Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have, renowned author James A. Autry reminds us that gratitude is a choice, a spiritual—not social—process. Made evident as behavior, gratitude is not the behavior itself. We may automatically respond, “Thank you” or “Appreciate it” in the daily course of our lives. These are polite, conditioned responses, but they are not gratitude. Instead, gratitude is a way of life, a belief system, that means cultivating a spirit of thankfulness even through the negatives of life. It is remembering there will always be more reasons for gratitude than for despair.

      In a society consumed by fears of not having “enough”—money, possessions, security, and so on—Autry suggests that if we cultivate gratitude as a way of being, we may not change the world and its ills, but we can change our response to the world. If we fill our lives with moments of gratitude, we will indeed love the life we have.

Choosing Gratitude is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For Choosing Gratitude

"Growing into gratitude comes in discrete pieces: coming to see “calamity” as a deepening experience, as well as recognizing that one already has enough. The culmination of this gem of a book is the longish account of the author’s brother’s learning how to say “thank you” in the face of his inevitable death. Like a slow building formation, James Autry’s wisdom regarding gratitude slowly builds up into insight that repeatedly appears just when needed."

          -John Maguire, President Emeritus Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California.

"Jim Autry does it again. In his usual winsome and witty way, Autry reminds us that our posture toward daily life—on both good days and bad—ought to be one of gratitude. With just the right blend of humor and heart, his stories, poems, and reflections all serve to help us develop and nurture our own spirit of gratitude."

          -David W. Miller, Director, Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative, Princeton, New Jersey.

"Jim Autry is a very wise soul. His inspiring stories, observations and suggestions are helpful in living a life of full of gratitude. This is a very worthwhile read."

          - Peter Roy, co-author of The Book of Hard Choices and former President of Whole Foods Market.

"Amidst the pressures life thrusts upon us, the notion of making a choice to express—no, to live—gratitude may seem naive. But it is profound, and in beautiful story form and moving poetry we are led to see how gratitude doesn’t isolate us from the rough-and-tumble of the world, but rather actually helps us engage it more richly. Several of the chapters were so powerful that I found myself in tears, agreeing that each of us indeed has much for which to be grateful."

          -David Trickett, President, Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colorado.

"I experience gratitude as a deep feeling of joy and sorrow as one, of being present to the world. Jim’s book captures this experience—it is filled with moments of joy and sorrow, offering us a profound recognition of what life is. I’m so grateful for this book."

          -Margaret J. Wheatley, Author of six books including Leadership and the New Science and Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time.

Excerpt From Choosing Gratitude

In Praise of Dog Parks

      I was tempted to title this "Everything I know about community I learned at the dog park," but that would be an overstatement. Still, there are a lot of good lessons to be learned there.

      My wife and I have been caring for our "grand-dog" while our son is on a weekend trip. Part of the responsibility is taking Gilda (the Corgi) to the dog park where she can indulge her herding instincts by running with the other dogs while we humans hang out and watch.

      A little community develops among the humans because, I think, we all have something on which we agree: Dogs are good. We don't talk about politics or war or sports or television or movies; we talk about our dogs, and we demonstrate acceptance and good will by petting one another's dogs. What a respite that is from our everyday concourse. It makes we want to suggest that every member of Congress must be accompanied by a dog. (No pit bulls allowed; Congress has enough of those already.)

      My young friend with a seizure disorder has a helper dog that senses when she is about to have a seizure, then guides her to a safe place and makes her sit down. A miracle dog.

      Perhaps dogs could be trained to sense anger or hostile confrontation, and when a congressperson was about to sound off, they could push the person to sit back down and cool off.

      Maybe not, but if congresspeople even had to take their dogs to the congressional dog park and pick up the animal waste in a little plastic bag and deposit it in the garbage, that would be a great lesson in service and in humility, both of which are needed these days.

      They might also learn some lessons from the dogs at the dog park.

      For instance, the dogs pay no attention to size or color or breed. When a new dog arrives, they rush to greet it with great excitement. All are welcome. They don't form cliques. They sniff one another equally and without prejudice. (One of the men at our dog park, channeling Jerry Lee Lewis, quipped, "Whole lotta sniffin' goin' on.").

      And when one of the humans throws a ball, any dog that chooses to chase it does so. They obviously love being together, and when their humans call them to leave, the dogs obey with great reluctance.

      I like to think they have some way of communicating that we don't understand and they're saying things like, "Gotta go, gotta keep my human happy, see you next Saturday," and so on.

      As for the humans, I hope that when we leave the dog park we have learned the lessons and are calmer, more open to other people, and more accepting of differences.

      I once heard a man say that his ambition was to be as good a person as his dog thinks he is. Not a bad goal for any of us, including congresspeople.

Poem From Choosing Gratitude [Listen to Jim read another poem from this book]]


It is early.
I am driving northeast.
The sun skims the soybeans,
the corn rises from the ground
like a green wall at the end of the bean field
at an angle that's right in every way,
a comfort, an affirmation
of the dependability of things
good and growing.
- James A. Autry, Choosing Gratitude


Choosing Gratitude 365 Days a Year. In this follow-up to his best seller Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have, renowned author James A. Autry joins his wife Sally J. Pederson for a year of gratefulness. Each devotion challenges us to see a source of gratefulness amidst the normal, burdensome circumstances of life. As the year progresses, we are let into Jim and Sally's lives, their trips to visit family, the blessings of their sons and friends. They remind us of things that happened last week or a month ago, even the weather, and so we are looped into the confidence of wise friends who really as the most positive, grateful people we would ever hope to meet. We want to be more grateful as we want to be more honest, more courageous, more generous. Each month, Jim and Sally highlight an added virtue to direct us on our guide to grateful living. Filled with quotes, poems, and the inspired voices of both Pederson and Autry, in a society consumed by fears of not having “enough”—money, possessions, security, and so on—this book suggests that if we cultivate gratitude as a way of being, we may not change the world and its ills, but we can change our response to the world.

      Sally J. Pederson is an advocate for children and adults with disabilities and a voice for progressive causes. She served as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007 and is a former editor with Better Homes & Gardens magazine, where she met and married the love of her life, Jim Autry. This is her first book.

Choosing Gratitude 365 Days a Year is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including: .

Excerpts From Choosing Gratitude 365 Days A Year

From The Introduction

      The great poet William Stafford said that the writer's work is to "dig so deep into his own story that he reaches everybody's story." In that vein we draw on our own stories and experiences and how they inspired our gratitude. We have included a good number of quotes and poems; even so, we have added commentary that relates them to our lives.

      Our hope is that you, in mining the sources of gratitude in your lives, will be moved to examine your daily experiences, your friendships, your relationships with loved ones, your deep interests, and your memories. We guarantee that this very process will become its own source of gratitude.

      Incidentally, after each day's entry, you will find initials indicating which of us wrote that particular day's commentary.

      A couple of other notes about the book. Following the lead of Cicero who wrote that, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others," we have chosen to offer on the first day of each month our thoughts about one of the virtues.

      Finally, although these daily pages begin with January 1, there's no requirement to begin on that day. Start in March or June or whenever you acquired this book, and simply stick with the 365 days until you come around again to the date you started.

      And remember, pay attention every single day

- James A. Autry and Sally J. Pederson


Some Daily Entries

January 5: Here's an exercise: List seven people to whom you want to express gratitude this week then do it, one a day, one day at a time. This will help keep you focused on gratitude all week. Then you might make this a practice in the first week of each month.
   If like many people you keep a gratitude journal, this exercise can help you move those writings into action.

February 10: My Dad likes to tell a story about his grandfather’s reaction the first time he ever saw a television in 1948. Great-grandpa Tharp was born in the 1880s so you can imagine the changes he had seen in his lifetime.
   Our family was one of the first to own a TV in our town and it was quite a novelty. Grandpa Tharp looked at the snowy picture on the TV screen and said, “I don’t know how they do that, but then I don’t suppose anybody really does.”
   I feel that way sometimes when I look at all the amazing things that my new phone can do, from tracking airplanes and packages to translating French. The other day, my four-year-old grand-nephew. Reid, taught me how to take videos with my i-pad. What a world we live in!
   Do you marvel at the fast pace of change in your world and are you grateful that someone, somewhere had the genius to invent these remarkable technologies?

Looking Around for God: The Strangely Reverent Observations of an Unconventional Christian. James Autry, writer and poet, business executive, and son and grandson of Mississippi Baptist ministers, thinks that the true message of the old spiritual is not just that God has an eye on the sparrow. It's that God is demonstrating that if these details are worth God's attention, they are certainly worth ours. It may be that we will more readily find God in the details of this world, and of our own lives, than anywhere else.

Looking Around for God, Autry's tenth book, is in many ways his most personal, as he considers his unique life of faith and belief in a God often clouded by church convention. In assembling these personal essays, stories and poems, Autry shares how God has been revealed in many different circumstances of his life, and he offers a few ideas for how the Christian church might better serve in making God's love and presence manifest in the world.

Looking Around For God is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For Looking Around for God

"I loved this book! Sweeping aside conventional pieties, Jim Autry's clear insights, told with wit and poetry, show how we may see traces of the divine shining through our everyday world."

          -Elaine Pagels, Princeton University.

"Yes, it's true: I did urge Jim Autry to write this book. For lesser sins the Good Lord may yet forgive me; this one could be unpardonable."

           -Bill Moyers, from the Forward.

"We don't hear the phrase 'Christian gentleman' much these days, but that is what James Autry is: generous, large-hearted, tolerant, funny, a man who finds the love of God wherever he can, who pays attention with his heart. Looking Around for God is a book vivid with life and fulfillments. Its honesty is deeply moving, and its irreverence is actually a form of reverence. It's a book that Jesus would have enjoyed."

           -Stephen Mitchell, Translator of the Tao Te Ching.

"In Looking Around for God Jim Autry exposes a relationship to God that is direct and personal, that needs neither filter nor formula, a faith that has learned to take life as it comes and make do. In a few deft strokes, in one fell swoop, he picks at the most profound presuppositions of belief, tickles the intellect, pricks the conscience, and kicks us all in the seat of the pants. Read it-if you have a free and vital faith you'll love it; if not, you won't even get it but it'll not hurt you."

           -James M. Dunn, The Divinity School at Wake Forest University

"As you read Looking Around For God, you might as well be adding up everyone you love, or have ever loved. Whatever the figure, it will be the exact amount of people with whom you will wish to share this extraordinary gift."

           -Norman Lear

"Jim Autry has written extensively about business and leadership. In this wonderful collection of prose and poetry, he writes about the spirit and the church with such an unorthodox slant, one wonders if he isn't a prophet. The man's a born poet, maybe even a frustrated preacher. It's a rare gift; an exploration of how much faith there is in doubt and how much grace there is in poetry."

           -Rev. Patricia DeJong, First Congregational Church of Berkeley, CA

Excerpt From Looking Around for God [Listen to Jim read another excerpt.]

Chapter 5:Embracing the Everyday Holiness

      What makes things or places sacred? I've wondered about this over the years. I remember visiting some of the great cathedrals of Europe not long after World War II when I was stationed in France with the Air Force. I was not very religious in those days and, as a Southern Baptist in my youth, never had a high regard for the Catholic Church generally, so I visited churches only as tourist attractions.
      But I remember how suddenly quiet and reverent I felt as soon as I entered those mighty, cavernous spaces. I felt the same way regardless of the church or the country. Many years later, when my wife and I traveled to Europe, we stopped at every church we passed, most of them Catholic, and lit a candle for our remembered family and for our son Ronald (a practice completely foreign to our own Protestant experiences), and we prayed silently. I felt always I was in a sacred place.
      But why? Was it that the place was a church? Or that worship services were celebrated there? Or that the structure had somehow been sanctified through a ritual of the church?
      No, I think it was simply because so many people had come to the place over so many years, bringing with them the expectation that they were entering a sacred place. In other words, in their quest and in their expectations of a connection with God, the people created the sacred space within the building, a space that was so palpable I could feel it when I entered-even though I personally held no such expectation of the connection with God. How do I explain that further? I don't. I just accept it, and in that acceptance I've also come to realize that it is not just in houses of worship that I should seek the presence of the sacred, but in everything I do and experience, even the mundane stuff.
I've read that Hasidic Jews find the holy in the everyday, whether washing the dishes, eating a meal, or making love. I admire this attitude, and if what I believe is true, that the consciousness of a connection with God in effect creates the holiness we feel in a church, then why would this not be true anywhere?
      In the past few years, I've come to understand and embrace these possibilities more fully. In 1998, the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary in our state asked my wife, Sally Pederson, to be his running mate. Though she had never sought political office before, she is now in her second term as lieutenant governor of Iowa.
      The whole thing-the campaign and the subsequent life as a public servant-has been a shock. Neither Sally nor I had the slightest notion of what the public expects of its elected officials. To get past this part of the story quickly, the answer is "a lot." Sally is busy almost every day, seven days a week, with few days off.
      From the day of her nomination, I have taken responsibility for all housework and childcare, all budgeting and bill paying, all doctor, dentist, and veterinary appointments, all automobile maintenance, all lawn and garden work, and all grocery shopping and cooking. This is in addition to my profession as author, consultant, and speaker.
      It is a cliché, I know, but it is true that every working spouse and parent should give the stay-at-home role a try. The demands are incessant, the requirement for attention to detail rivals any detail-oriented job on earth, and the responsibilities for other lives far outweighs that of any business manager.
      Beyond the intellectual realization that, in taking over this role and supporting my wife and son, I am doing important work, I also derive great emotional fulfillment from it, and in ways I would never have suspected.
      One way is in the simple satisfaction I feel after cooking a good meal or cleaning the kitchen. I like the way my son's clothes smell when they come out of the dryer, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I put them into his dresser, ready for the next week of school.
      I confess I get a kick out of defying the stereotype of the clueless husband. Recently, I went to lunch with an old friend. When she dug down into her purse, a panty liner fell out onto the floor. She didn't notice. I retrieved it, handed it to her, and said, "Here's your panty liner."
      "What did you say?" she asked in a tone of surprise, almost astonishment.
      "I said, 'Here's your panty liner.'"
      She laughed and shook her head. "My husband wouldn't have the slightest idea what a panty liner is."
      Enjoying myself immensely, I responded, "I can even tell you brands and types, light days or heavy days, scented or unscented." By this time she was laughing.
      "I buy these things for Sally," I said. "She doesn't have time to pick them up, and I can't imagine her asking her security trooper to stop by the store so she can run in for some panty liners."
      "And you aren't embarrassed?" my friend asked.
      "Of course not. Why should I be embarrassed about panty liners and not about toilet paper or hemorrhoid cream or something like that? This is just human stuff."
      But while defying the stereotypes is fun, and while I know the household work is important, there is more to it, something beyond emotional fulfillment, something deeper, something about meaning and connection with everyday holiness, something spiritual.
      I think my desire to seek God in the details of everyday life has a lot to do with facing and evaluating how I used to live. For years, I made lists of chores for the weekends, and as I did them I dutifully checked them off the list. There was a certain satisfaction in getting through the list, but the psychological pitfall was that if I did not complete a chore and check it off, it was as if I'd done nothing. It was almost like a failure.
      I'd read a lot of the stuff about how the journey is the destination and how growing spiritually is in the very process of spiritual growth, but I had managed to put that in some kind of compartment, as if spiritual growth was part of the list of things to do, stuck somewhere in there with cleaning the gutters and mowing the lawn: "Okay, I've grown spiritually, now where's the hedge trimmer?"
      It took a while but I finally got it: What I'd read was not about adding a spiritual growth compartment to my life but trying to live all my life with the daily consciousness of a potential for holiness in everything and with the realization that everything I do is part of something larger.
      I realized that my spiritual journey, my connection with the sacred, could include such unlikely things as cleaning the gutters, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedge, changing diapers, doing the laundry, cooking meals, and even buying panty liners for my wife. Of course, it's easier in some places and with some activities than with others. For instance, working in my greenhouse or garden will always give me a holiness fix when I need it. Still, it's possible anywhere.
      Am I successful every day? Of course not. I still become impatient and frustrated. I still give in to just getting through the list and checking things off. But at least I am aware of when I'm falling short of my intentions, and I have come to believe that awareness of those failings may even be more important in the longer journey. As the Zen master said, "Everything is perfect but there's still room for improvement."

Poem From Looking Around for God

The Resurrection
-For Jim Gilliom, Easter Sunday, 1994

This story is about a little girl
who died on Easter Sunday
and about her father who could no longer whistle.
Everyone knew at once,
the family, the neighbors,
that life would never be the same
without the little girl,
but it took a while for everyone to realize
that life would never be the same
without the father's whistle.
No one tried to talk him into it
because they understood the whistle
was somehow with the little girl,
gone, it seemed, forever.
Nobody knew what happened that day at the plant,
or if anything did,
but even before he arrived home
a neighbor lady called to say
how much it meant to hear the whistle.
"Your father has started whistling again,"
the mother told her son,
who then carried the father's tune in his heart
until one Easter Sunday
many years later and many miles away,
in a sermon of resurrection,
the son was able at last to tell this story,
and to whistle.
And the spirit of his father was released
as a blessing to all who heard it.
- James A. Autry, Looking Around For God


Love & Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership. This best-seller, widely regarded as a breakthrough in the management book field, helped establish the genre of management and leadership books that go beyond the technical, business-school teachings so prevalent in the 1980s. Also, Love and Profit clearly made a path for a whole new genre of poetry: not just poetry by business people but poetry by business people about the subject of business. Poems in this book have been anthologized and reprinted around the world.

      Love and Profit won the prestigious Johnson, Smith & Knisely Award as the book which had the most impact on executive thinking in 1992.

Love & Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For Love & Profit

"A real breakthrough. We predict it will become a classic."

           -John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene, - authors of Megatrends 2000

"Prophetic...far and away the freshest, truest, and best-written book on management in my experience."

           -M. Scott Peck, Author of The Road Less Traveled

"If Keats and Adam Smith were born again, they'd be Jim Autry. I love this book."

           -Bill Moyers

"A businessman's book of poetry - so well done and touching."

           -Rand Araskog, Chief Executive Officer, ITT

"Rarely, if ever, has an outstanding business leader revealed his secrets with such power and poignancy - or so little self-consciousness."

           -Marilyn Ferguson, Author of The Aquarian Conspiracy

"If there were a way for this nonparticipant to back his recommendation with a money-back guarantee you would have it."

           -Norman Lear

"Love and Profit may just be the most enlightening book about management written in the last twenty-five years. It should be required reading for every middle to senior manager in America. Furthermore, it belongs in every B-classroom, from Harvard to Stanford."

           -Pamela Fiori - Editorial Director, American Express Publishing Corp.

"To the statement, 'There's no money in poetry,' someone retorted, 'Yes, but there's no poetry in money either.' James Autry's remarkable book proves otherwise. The poetry in Love and Profit doesn't only consist of the actual poems in the book; it lives in Autry's prose and in his generous rational mind. This is an indispensable business primer for the heart and mind."

           -Roger Rosenblatt

Excerpt From Love & Profit

Sexual Harassment

      It's all very well to talk about love and caring in the workplace, but now let's talk about sexual harassment.

      If anything is clear, it is that men and women see it differently. The Wall Street Journal reported a piece of research which showed that men and women generally agreed on what constitutes sexual harassment, but they did not agree on how women should respond. Forty-six percent of the men said that women should be flattered; only five percent of the women agreed.

      If anything else is clear, it is that men do it to women more often than women do it to men. In fact, a man would likely not complain for fear of appearing less than masculine.

      I recall, as an adolescent, reading in the Memphis Commercial Appeal about a man who complained to police that he was taken at gunpoint into the woods by two women and raped. I wondered why he was complaining. What was wrong with him?

      Now I hear grown men wonder why women complain about comments which are "just joking" or "should be flattering."

      "What do they expect," men ask, "when they wear those goddamned miniskirts?"

      It is difficult for many men to separate women's desire to be attractive and to express a sexual identity from their desire also to maintain a sexual privacy and separateness that is inviolable by words, looks, or gestures.

      The difficulty is understandable, particularly in men of the fifties who have been goaded from boyhood into believing that sex somehow is connected to power, and that if men don't establish that power, women will.

      Consider the old joke: "The good news is that the Lord gave the world pussy. The bad news is that he put women in charge of it." There are thousands of sexist jokes, but this may be the ultimate one, in which women's sexuality was created by a masculine God as a commodity. The result is a struggle whose outcome can never benefit women, except by men's rules.

      Only in the past fifteen years or so has this struggle been outlawed from the workplace. Not a minute too soon, of course, but we are left with a dilemma. Somehow we must accept and tolerate appropriate expressions of caring, of support, and of affection in a workplace which now accepts those expressions partly because so many women have come into business. It is ironic that I now find myself, more often than not, hugging men and shaking hands with women.

      Recently I met with a young woman salesperson, a feminist, whom I had hired and to whom I had been something of a mentor. It had been a while since we'd seen one another, so she gave me a warm and exuberant hug. It was important and appropriate.

      She initiated it and I'm sure she thought nothing of it. But why? Why was it appropriate? I can name 50 other people with whom I have an equal relationship but with whom the hug would not have been appropriate. Why did she think nothing of it? Surely she can name 50 men with whom she has worked but whom she would not have hugged. What was the difference?

      She might have her own answer, but I know mine: The difference has to do with power and motive. Sexism and sexual harassment are always about power, not about affection and caring. Sexism and sexual harassment are always one-sided, never mutual.

      And I know this: Employees, including managers, must care for one another, and the frequently intertwined nature of our personal/professional relationships makes rules impossible, except those clearly established by law.

      And this: Motive and mutuality are the keys to appropriateness, so despite the complexities, sexual harassment is not all that hard to identify, within ourselves or other people. I can recognize it when I see it. And so can you.

Poem From Love & Profit [Listen to Jim read this poem]

On Firing A Salesman

It's like a little murder,
taking his life,
his reason for getting on the train,
his lunches at fancy restaurants,
and his meetings in warm and sunny places
where they all gather,
these smiling men,
in sherbet slacks and blue blazers,
and talk about business
but never about prices,
never breaking that law
about the prices they charge.
But what about the prices they pay?
What about gray evenings in the bar car
and smoke-filled clothes and hair
and children already asleep
and wives who say
"you stink"
when they come to bed?
What about the promotions they don't get,
the good accounts they lose
to some kid MBA
because somebody up there
thinks their energy is gone?
What about those times they see in a mirror
or the corner of their eye
some guy at the club shake his head
when they walk through the locker room
the way they shook their heads years ago
at an old duffer
whose handicap had grown along with his age?
And what about this morning,
the summons,
the closed door,
and somebody shaved and barbered and shined
fifteen years their junior
trying to put on a sad face
and saying he understands?
A murder with no funeral,
nothing but those quick steps outside the door,
those set jaws,
those confident smiles,
that young disregard for even the thought
of a salesman's mortality.
- James A. Autry, Love & Profit


The Servant Leader: A Practical Guide To Using The Principles Of Servant Leadership. Servant Leadership is leadership the right way - a better way of being a manager and part of organizational life. Servant leadership will produce fulfilling emotional, psychological, and spiritual rewards for everyone involved. It will enhance productivity, encourage creativity, and benefit the bottom line.

           In The Servant Leader top-selling author, former Fortune 500 executive and business consultant James A. Autry shows you how to remain true to the servant leadership model when handling day-to-day and long-term management situations. You'll learn how to manage with respect and honesty and how to empower employees to achieve new levels of satisfaction. Plus, you'll learn why servant leadership can be the guiding light to becoming the kind of leader and person you want to be. You'll discover how to:
  • Maintain your spiritual focus while dealing with such challenging issues as firing, harassment, substance abuse, and performance problems
  • Provide guidance during conflict and crisis
  • Assure your continued growth and progress as a leader
  • Train managers in the principles of servant leadership
  • Transform a company with morale problems into a great place to work
           Real leadership begins on the inside with your own commitment to inspire the best in others. But its one thing to make the commitment; it's quite another to develop the skills to make that happen. If you are an executive, a manager, or someone who aspires to be in a leadership role, you will find the servant leadership philosophy to be a valuable, refreshing, and rewarding approach to leading others and to business life.

The Servant Leader: A Practical Guide To Using The Principles Of Servant Leadership is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For The Servant Leader

"This is an awesome book. James Autry's gift is that he brings lofty ideals down to earth with general illustrations that make them easy to understand and apply. I highly recommend it!"

          -Jack Canfield,, coauthor, Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work.

"The Servant Leader illuminates a clear path to personal, spiritual, and material actualization, which, in return, creates an infinite circle of prosperity."

          -Tom Gould, retired chairman and CEO, Younkers, Inc.

"Quite simply, this is an extraordinary book. It is a classic already and the first truly great leadership book of the new century."

          -John Noble,director, Greenleaf Center, UK

"The Servant Leader is really the best field guide I've seen for helping managers transform themselves into true leaders."

          -Doug Greene, CEO, New Hope Group

"Servant leadership is a bold step toward a necessary redefinition of business as an arena of caring and not a mere instrument for producing profit."

          -Sam Keen, author, Hymns to an Unknown God and Fire in the Belly

"Servant leadership is key to surviving and thriving in the twenty-first century. let both Jim Autry and his book, The Servant Leader, be your guide."

          -Ken Blanchard, co-author, The One Minute Manager

Excerpt From The Servant Leader

Coping with the High Tech Workplace

      The age of electronic assistants has brought convenience and productivity to the new workplace. No question. It has also often brought a preoccupation with technology to the extent that personal relationships have been neglected or ignored. And why not? It's far easier to deal with machines than with people. When a computer crashes, you can curse it or yell at it with no fear that it'll respond with anger or hurt feelings. So given a choice, many people would prefer to deal with the machine.

       How does the servant leader respond to this trend? How does the leader maintain the focus on respectful human relationships, not on machines, as the central resource of an organization?

      I offer for your consideration four myths which the leader must address if he or she is to bring human perspective to the excessive enthusiasm now surrounding the marvelous new technological tools.

Technology Myths

  • Myth One: We are more connected.
  • Myth Two: All our electronic tools have made communication faster, better, and more accurate.
  • Myth Three: Having people come to a central place to work in groups is being made obsolete by the new tools.
  • Myth Four: When people multi-task they get more done.


The Spirit Of Retirement: Creating A Life Of Meaning And Personal Growth. Your retirement years should be the best of your life. Free from the burden of making a living, in front of you lies an opportunity for personal development and a time for spiritual growth. These are your years; it is up to you to embrace them and ensure that you enjoy an enriching journey.

      The Spirit of Retirement is your guiding light to creating and sustaining the post-work life you have always envisioned. Bestselling author and retired Fortune 500 executive James A. Autry illuminates a fulfilling path of meaningful endeavors, healthful reflections, and positive outlooks that will help make these years your most treasured.

      This engaging book highlights many important aspects of your new life, including:
  • Preparing for the transition
  • Determining who you want to be for the rest of your life and how to get there
  • Reconnecting with those you love,appreciating your roots, and reinvigorating friendships
  • Allowing time to develop your inner self
  • Plus many other valuable insights
      Included are moving anecdotes from people whose retirement years are filled with beauty, deep meaning, and purpose. Their stories illustrate the good life and special time that retirement should be and what it can be for you when you follow the guidance and apply the principles presented in this book.

The Spirit of Retirement is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including: .

Praise For Spirit of Retirement

"James Autry has packaged a gift for each of us the gift of the rest of our lives."

          R. John Mack Carter, former president, Hearst Magazine Enterprises.

"Jim Autry gets to the heart of the matter with The Spirit of Retirement. Combining a poet's understanding with down-home common sense, he gives us more than a manual for the later years. He offers a rich, full life. "

          R. Roger Rosenblatt, essayist and frequent commentator on Public Television

"Jim Autry's book is as much a guide to living well as retiring well. Reading his ideas and inspiring tales of others facing or experiencing retirement makes one feel less lonely."

          R. Warren Bennis,distinguished professor of business at University of Southern California and coauthor of Geeks and Geezers: How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders

"Through Autry's great gift for making the stories of real people come alive, he has created a book that is inspiring and hopeful, yet immensely practical and helpful. We are bombarded daily with financial advice for planning our retirement, but we need Autry's wise voice for the far greater task of being our fullest and truest selves during our retirement years. "

          R. C. Michael Thompson, executive development consultant and author of The Congruent Life: Following the Inward Path to Fulfilling Work and Inspired Leadership

"The Spirit of Retirement is a powerful and persuasive book-an inspiring look at the changing attitudes toward retirement. James Autry charts new territory in this engaging look at the nature of spirit, creativity, and developing a purposeful life. You owe it to yourself to read this book."

          R. Larry C. Spears, -, CEO, the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership and editor of Focus on Leadership: Servant-Leadership for the 21st Century

Excerpts From Spirit of Retirement

       If you're like most people, and particularly if you're a baby-boomer, you probably feel you already put much time and effort into retirement planning, but have you planned your life or only your income? Have you considered the emotional and spiritual, rather than just the financial, aspects of retirement?

       There is an entire category of media--books, magazines, advertisements by the hundreds--devoted to promoting one financial planning service or another. Their illustrations feature the ubiquitous AARP couple: a handsome, silver-haired man, lean, trim, tanned, and fit, paired with an equally youthful looking silver-haired woman. These beautiful people with movie star teeth are always smiling as they ski or swim or fish or golf or gaze from the deck of a luxury liner. And the message is always the same: our financial planners or investment counsellors or mutual fund managers or securities brokers can help you find that feeling of well-being, contentment, and security that will allow you to have the fullest possible retirement. Well-being. Contentment. Security.

       Add to these scenarios the same beautiful couple dancing romantically across a page featuring a promotion for Viagra, and the inevitable conclusion is that the retiring baby-boomers will want for absolutely nothing.

       Except what perhaps?

       The answer begs a definition of well-being, contentment, and security. Does it include emotional fulfillment, joy, and bliss? Does it include a deep sense of connection with the people you most care about and who most care about you? And what about a continuing or a renewed quest for a greater understanding of the ageless mysteries, of the great unknown, of a higher power, of God?

       The media induce you to look forward to the good life. Nothing wrong with that. But this book asks you to go beyond the good life and consider also the life of goodness.

       When you plan the financial aspects of retirement, you don't just put the money away and forget about it. You pay attention to what's happening with it; you actively manage it, working that into your daily or weekly schedule. You must do the same thing with your spiritual retirement planning. You can't just say, "When I retire I'll take time for the things that enrich my inner life." You have to take time now, and begin to practice those things now. Just as there should be a seamless transition in your financial life, there should be an equally seamless transition in your spiritual life.


The Book of Hard Choices: How To Make The Right Decision At Work And Keep Your Self-Respect. All of us like to think that, in any given situation, we’d act with integrity and do the right thing. But what happens when we get to work each morning? Do the same rules we follow in our personal lives apply to our work lives?

       The lines between right and wrong become blurred when we must weigh our obligations to our employer against our own ideas about what is right and wrong. Should altruism trump profit, even to the detriment of the organization? When should you step in to protect an employee and when should the employee be left to take the heat? If the CEO is up to some unethical accounting, should you always risk your job—and the company’s reputation—to sound the alarm?

       These are the hard choices, the dilemmas that put your integrity to the test and require you to look beyond organizational policy and industry precedents to find an answer that reflects your personal sense of justice. The Book of Hard Choices goes to the heart of these difficult decisions. James Autry and Peter Roy, experienced executives themselves, interviewed numerous leaders about the tough decisions they’ve made on the job. They spoke with people like former Starbucks president Howard Behar, Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner, and Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa as well as entrepreneurs, military officials, members of the clergy, and a whole host of leaders. The authors dig into the thinking process these people went through, as well as the emotional strain, the self-doubt, and the fear of a wrong decision’s impact on their business, family, or coworkers. Not everyone in this book made the right choice, but all of them were forced to examine their values and make decisions in complicated circumstances. The result is hard-won wisdom on how to navigate the ethical gray-areas of work life—from daily challenges to possible career ending choices—and make the best possible decisions in the most difficult situations.

           Real leadership begins on the inside with your own commitment to inspire the best in others. But its one thing to make the commitment; it's quite another to develop the skills to make that happen. If you are an executive, a manager, or someone who aspires to be in a leadership role, you will find the servant leadership philosophy to be a valuable, refreshing, and rewarding approach to leading others and to business life.

The Book of Hard Choices is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For The Book of Hard Choices

"The stories in The Book of Hard Choices are more than case studies—they are intensely dramatic and personal, surprising and deeply moving. They implicitly challenge the reader to ask, ‘What would I have done?’ This book should be required reading for any professional ethics course—and any professional.”."

          -Betty Sue Flowers, Ph.D., business consultant and executive director of the LBJ Presidential Library.

"Two seasoned, highly successful business leaders provide invaluable reflections for anyone who aspires to a life and career of integrity and self-respect. "

           -Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., bestselling author of Age Wave, Age Power, The Power Years and Workforce Crisis, and founder and CEO of Age Wave

"These real life stories steer right into the practice of making the difficult choices necessary for principled participation and leadership in the workplace. Thoughtful, helpful, and ultimately invigorating."

           -Walter Robb, co-president, Whole Foods Market

"This is the first book I would send to anyone interested in how leadership is done and how tough choices are made in any enterprise."

           -Warren Bennis, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Management at the University of Southern California and author of On Becoming a Leader

Excerpt From The Book of Hard Choices

Ethical Behavior

      Ethical behavior depends not on policies and guidelines and his-sounding polysyllabic statements, but on individual integrity.

      There are plenty of instances in which what is legal may very well not be ethical; thus, an emphasis on what's legal can get many managers in trouble: "If it's legal, it must be okay." This has often become a very convenient hiding place for people who don't want to use their own integrity to evaluate the ethics of what they're doing or have done, only the legality.

      The reasons for this are obvious enough. We are a nation of laws, we bind virtually every agreement with a contract, we dictate that behavior must be legal.
       But ethicality is not about contracts, its about covenants. Contracts are written with all sorts of provisions for reparation, damage assessments, and other legal repercussions. On the other hand, covenants are moral understandings and are "enforceable" only by the moral intention of the participants, by their commitment to do what they say they are going to do.

      While ethics is an institutional term, the living of an ethical work and management life nonetheless depends absolutely on the moral compasses of the people who must make ethic real by the way they chose to behave


Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching. In this book Mr. Autry combines forces with Stephen Mitchell, the bestselling translator of the Tao Te Ching, to write the first book revealing how to use the wisdom of this ancient text to understand the most valued and elusive prize in business: power. Power is the most coveted reward- the power to run a project, a department, or an entire company. Yet there has been little written on the nature of this essential tool without which nothing is accomplished. What exactly is power, and where does it come from? Does power automatically come with authority? Does it come from your superiors, or do you create it for yourself? And why is it so difficult to hang on to?

      Real Power illustrates the paradox in winning at work: that power begins only when we learn to let go of the illusion of control in order to empower others. Real power recognizes that employees already have power in their skills, their commitment to the job, and their passion for the work. Real power comes from creating an environment in which that power can be expressed in order to produce the best results for everyone.

      The book's advice for cultivating real power ranges from learning why helping your competition (inside or outside the company) can be the biggest help to yourself, to understanding why conventional displays of power are the least effective ways to accomplish goals. Whether you're at the top of the corporate ladder, the middle, or the bottom, this guide will help make your work fulfilling on every level from financial to personal.

      Other works by Mr. Mitchell include The Enlightened Mind: An Anthology of Sacred Prose and The Enlighten Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry.

Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For Real Power

"Jim Autry reminds us that real power emanates from conviction, compassion and wisdom. I bought this book for all my senior officers."

           -R. Brad Martin, chairman and CEO, Profitt's inc.

"Real Power is an insightful synthesis of ancient wisdom and practical leadership lessons. It will speak to your heart as well as your mind and help you become a more powerful and successful leader."

           - Peter Roy, president Whole Foods.

"I greatly admire Jim Autry's work. Today's leaders will find his enduring message reinforcing, and tomorrow's leaders will find him inspirational."

           - - Bob Mong, executive vice president, Belo.

"Penetrate[s] the mystery of this ancient text on leadership, demonstrating how to turn today's workplace into a source of financial and emotional fulfillment. "

           - Shambhala Sun

"This book offers the wisest business advice you will ever find - eminently practical and profoundly empowering. The Tao brings true freshness, clarity, and a love of work to employer and employee alike."

           - Jack Kornfield - author of A Path with Heart

"A remarkable constellation of qualities. A book to have near at hand, day by day, to savor a few pages at a time. It gives a threefold benefit: the wisdom of one of the world's greatest texts, a magnificent contemporary translation, and the thoughts and hard-won experience of a tried-and-true business leader who is a fine poet."

           -David Whyte - author of The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

"In Real Power, Autry and Mitchell demonstrate that ancient wisdom is good business. This unique partnership uses the time-tested lessons of the past to enable success in today's business world. Real Power is a guidebook no serious person can afford to miss. It will change the way you work and deepen the way you live."

           -Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. -author of Kitchen Table Wisdom

Excerpt From Real Power


The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
The unnamable is the eternally real. . . .

from Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching

      Some business leaders just have it. You know it when you see it but you can't really identify it or classify it. You might call it judgment or instinct or intuition; you may say it's the "touch" or the "knack". You can't put your finger on it, and you don't know what to call it. The fact is, it doesn't have a name. And that's okay, as long as you are able to see for yourself what happens when leaders know how to be: a particular CEO or executive VP or department head just has a way of making things turn our okay for everybody in the group while achieving excellent business results. Not that every idea or plan or product is a rousing success, but the leader and the employees accept the outcome, learn from it, and move on to the next project with passion and enthusiasm.

      If you look beyond the workplace, you find that the leaders and employees are fulfilled not only by their work but in their personal lives as well. They are passionately involved in their communities, and they experience deep joy and connection with their loved ones.

      When you see all these results, you are seeing the good work of wise leaders. Despite attempts to explain the success of these leaders, the characteristics that bring it about are not explainable. Business school scholars do case studies from time to time, trying to define what they think they observe in order to replicate it as a system. Then to the dismay of the scholars, it -- whatever "it" is -- doesn't work in another setting or with another manager.

      What is most valuable doesn't have a name. The wise leader is comfortable with the mystery of that and doesn't waste energy trying to figure it out. She doesn't need to label everything and doesn't let herself be limited by the desire for any particular result. She knows that her job is to bring people together in the workplace and, through training as well as through personal encouragement, to assure that they understand how their individual jobs connect with the greater purpose of the business. Once that's done, she trusts that committed people working together in a community of effort will produce more than she could ever have prescribed through a formal strategic planning process. This is the basis for real power.

Poem From Real Power

From The Tao Te Ching

The Tao doesn't take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn't take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.
The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces:
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.
- Lao Tzu, trans. Stephen Mitchell, ch. 422 Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching by James Autry & Stephen Mitchell.


Life & Work: A Manager's Search for Meaning. In Life and Work Autry addresses the emerging central questions facing all working people as they try to find their way amid the increasing pressures of downsizing and competition:

"How can I find the balance in life and work?"

      Expressed another way, the question is: "How can I keep my life and work integrated?" Autry's answers, conveyed in essays, poems, and letters to his children, bring fresh insight to issues as vital and diverse as leadership and how to teach it, strategic alliances and how to create a "whole partnership", the breakdown of civility and community, and the seductions of success and how to avoid them. There are ideas and observations about business's destructive fads, about executive pay and the future of capitalism.

      The heart of Life and Work may well be its forthright approach to some of the thorniest and most troublesome challenges in management and life: romance and sexual tensions between men and women at work, accommodation of workers with disabilities, the difficulties of marriage between two working professionals, job stress and how it raises the cost of health care.

      Though this book takes a broad view of life and work, Autry's insights are always true to his considerable experience as a businessperson. He is able to reach to the deepest place in our hearts and minds to help us overcome pain, live in the present, and celebrate the generosity of spirit that reveals itself in the exquisite balance of how we choose to live and what we choose to do.

Life & Work: A Manager's Search for Meaning is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For Life and Work

"Just as Jim Autry's first book showed the business world you can create a humane workplace, his new landmark book should make it clear that life goes hand-in-hand with work and ideally there is no division. A brilliant work."

           -Harvey MacKay, Author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

"Autry has done it again. Life and Work is even more profound and far-reaching than his earlier books. It simultaneously manages to be practical and poetic, hardheaded and touching. This is an exquisitely balanced guide for today's leaders and managers."

           -M. Scott Peck, Author of The Road Less Traveled

"Freud said that a contented life needs love and work equally. Grasping that, James Autry has made a wonderful book of his ruminations. As always, he spreads a clear, entrancing light into the murkiest of subjects - ourselves."

           -Roger Rosenblatt

"A wise and poetic book about the business of living. Read it and reap."

           -Sam Keen

"I loved this book. Jim Autry is a businessman with a soul and a poet with flint. He understands the adventurous path of love and the risky trajectory of business."

           -Warren Bennis, Author of An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change.

"You have another winner on your hands."

           -Madelyn Jennings, Senior Vice-President, Gannett Corp.

"Once again Jim Autry has made a terrific contribution to understanding the complex life of a manager in the 1990s. This book shows wisdom, a deep understanding of people, and a business savvy that helps us all understand the softer, more intangible side of business. Jim stands with the best in mentoring in American business."

           -Bob Rosen, President, Healthy Companies

"What a warm, insightful and thoroughly practical book! Jim knows that love is the tough-minded emotion in the world and illustrates that better than virtually anyone I know."

           -Joe Batten, Chairman, The Batten Group

"Jim Autry has once again provided his grateful readers with a combination of a CEO's practical advice and a poet's musings. His gentle genius is what is needed for this time."

           -John R. O'Neil, President, California School of Professional Psychology

Excerpt From Life And Work

The Paradoxes

      A young manager friend asked me to "list the paradoxes of management" sometime. I've usually avoided doing it because I don't think I know all the paradoxes of management and because I think some of them are not just restricted to management. But fools rush in, so here I go:

      The leader must...
  • be long term and short term at the same time, assuring that the quarterly earnings of the company meet the financial requirements set by the board while often sacrificing short-term earnings in order to assure the long-term growth and development of the company and its stakeholders.
  • be in touch and aware of what's going on without looking over people's shoulders.
  • inspire and often direct people in accomplishing the vision and mission and purpose of the organization while empowering people to manage themselves and make their own decisions.
  • accept and perform the role of spokesperson for the company, the person in the spotlight, the person upon whom much attention is showered while letting go of ego and control and becoming a resource for the employees.
  • encourage and support the rights and the growth and the independent thinking of individual employees without sacrificing the rights and growth and interdependence of the community of employees.
  • care for people and fire people, sometimes the same people.
  • encourage risk-taking and reward mistakes while preventing any mistakes that could jeopardize the survival of the enterprise.
  • Embrace with full commitment the demands and responsibilities, as well as the rewards, of the job with all its paradoxes while embracing with full commitment the demands and responsibilities, as well as the rewards, of being a parent and spouse and friend.

Poem From Life and Work


Too many times has a death message
come late at night
for me not to fill with fear
when the telephone pulls me awake.

And when I hear the voice
I know the news is bad.
"How can they just eliminate my job like that?"
I don't know.
"After all these years?"
I don't know.

We talk a long time
about when we were younger
and everything was uncertain
but full of promise,
thinking then that money was the goal
and the job was just something we did.

But now we know the truth.
"I can get by financially I guess
but that's not the point.
It's the work."

Then at this pause,
from the silence on the end of the phone,
comes at last that same sound
of other late-night phone calls,
grief, loss, disconnection,
and yet something else,
something like rejection,
but even more than that,
as if a whole life of work
has been without worth,
so insignificant that it can be legislated away,
the way some governments
simply erase all traces
of a person's life and work,
as if he had never existed.

The phone fills with silence.
Finally, as after those other death messages,
there is nothing left to say
except the trivial.
My old colleague apologizes for waking me
and trusts that I won't be tired in the morning
and fears I have been upset
and knows there is nothing I can do
and hopes we can get together soon
and appreciates my support
and may call me for a reference
and wishes my family well.

- James A. Autry, Life & Work.


Confessions of an Accidental Businessman: It takes a lifetime to find wisdom. Confessions of an Accidental Businessman bears no resemblance to the usual autobiographies by business heroes. In this 'warts and all' portrait of his life in business, bestselling author James Autry blends candid and engaging autobiography with practical and realistic lessons in management and leadership. More than a memoir, it is a teaching tale for managers who seek the wisdom to become leaders, for those who seek to integrate their values in the creation of innovative, productive, and profitable organizations.

      Reflecting on his thirty-two years in business, Autry chronicles his rise up the ladder - from his impoverished beginnings in a federal housing project to his successful stint in a Fortune 500 executive suite, from newspaper boy to head of a magazine empire. He shares the blunders, triumphs, dilemmas, fears, moral conflicts, and friendships that shaped and instructed him along the way. Through real-life stories told with penetrating honesty, Autry shares a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom about the art of business leadership, as well as the art of living a balanced life.

      Confessions... was one of the five finalists in the 1996 Financial Times/Booze, Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award.

Confessions of an Accidental Businessman: It takes a lifetime to find wisdom is available from a number of on-line booksellers, including:

Praise For Confessions of an Accidental Businessman

"Far and away the best business autobiography I know. Vulnerable, honest, and courageous, it reflects not only the extraordinary soul of the author, but also the extraordinary potential for 'soul' in the business world. This book is a must for any growing manager and leader."

           -M. Scott Peck, Author of The Road Less Traveled

"Jim Autry writes about business people with the grace of a poet and the insights of a chief executive....He shows us how we can reach into our deeper resources to achieve an admirable balance and harmony in our own lives."

           -Marshall Loeb, former Managing Editor Fortune and Money

"Autry's back - honest, humble, hopeful, human....This memoir will lift the spirits and smarts of those whose job is to lead others."

           -Madelyn P. Jennings, Senior Vice President/Personnel, Gannett

"Autry [shows] how the lessons of leadership are as much about authenticity and dignity as they are about productivity and profit. If you want to truly understand what can be learned from the critical incidents of business life, you must read this book. "

           -Jim Kouzes, Co-Author of The Leadership Challenge and Credibility

"Most of us make a living, but all too often we fail to make a life. Jim Autry movingly and wisely dissects this conundrum by reminding us that business is about relationships and values; and that, when we understand those connections, both our work life and our personal life are enriched. He deals meaningfully with a subject as important as it is neglected."

           -Irvine O. Hockaday, Jr., President and CEO, Hallmark Cards

"Full of dignity, nobility, and meaning this book will help all of us gain wisdom in less than a 'lifetime.' It's a short hymn to a great life and also deepens our understanding of what work is all about."

           -Warren Bennis, University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration, University of Southern California and author of On Becoming a Leader and Creative Collaboration

"A pleasing antidote to the paeans of self-praise which come out of so many of the so called 'captains of industry'."

           -Charles Handy, author of The Age of Unreason and The Age of Paradox

Excerpt From Confessions of an Accidental Businessman

The Main Things I Know About Leadership

      If from my continuingly successful career, there are observations to offer about leadership, these are the main ones:
All growth and most good things come from paying attention. Leadership is largely a matter of paying attention. So is life for that matter. This means paying attention, and attending, to the relationships in our lives, whether with a spouse or child or friend or colleague or vendor or customer.

Next, use every experience. Every experience is connected to every other experience, from childhood throughout our lives. Everything counts. Everything--every event, every episode, every interaction--means something. Look for that meaning and remember the most important things are not obvious to the eye.

Never think of employees as "labor," as a commodity. Once we begin to think of workers as a commodity, we rob work of its meaning and we rob our people of their opportunities for meaning.

Avoid the tyranny of technocracy. Burnett used to say this, and I thought he meant the data-driven computer freaks and the government people or some combination, with the Pentagon thrown in. I did not realize, and perhaps he didn't, he was talking about the ninety percent of managers who ignore relationships and become technocrats, putting their energies into managing all the stuff that is easy to measure. The concept of technocracy has less to do with technology than it does with a " technical," versus a human, attitude about our jobs. The tyranny comes in its suppression of the human spirit at work.

Abandon career planning and income plans. The most frustrated people I have ever known are those who got out of school with a complete plan about their career progress. The frustrated ones fall into two categories: those who did not get what they planned and those who did get what they planned.

Avoid "building" a resume by taking jobs just because they will look good on the CV. There is far less future in doing things just to have done them than in doing things just for the doing of them. Nothing matters like having good work to do and reveling in the work itself.

Expect the unexpected and be ready to embrace change. Everybody talks about this subject until we're all sick of hearing about it. I believe the only way to be ready is not to be ready, is not to burden ourselves with a mass of contingency plans and quick moves but simply to pay attention, expect the unexpected, and go with it until we find our opportunities in the chaos that change brings. So many businesses, large and small, make the same mistake: They do the right thing for the wrong reason, then they don't realize they've done the right thing because they evaluate it through the wrong prism, through the prism of their conditioning or their expectations. The same thing happens when they do the wrong thing for the right reason. In the midst of change and chaos, we must evaluate everything with a fresh eye, abandoning expectations and presumptions.

Take the work seriously but don't take ourselves so seriously. One of the greatest barriers to personal growth is our desire to live up to our own image, our own hype. Corporate executives are just terrible about thinking they have to live up to some manufactured image of themselves. They end up leading the unexamined life because so many of them fear what they might discover.

Do not use short-term solutions for long-term problems. The most obvious quick hit solution is often the one that comes back to haunt us.

Never run away from anything. Always run to something. I gave this advice countless times to people who were unhappy in their work for some reason or another--difficult boss, incompatible co-worker, limited future. Of course there are reasons to leave a job, but often the solution to a better situation is in confronting the problem honestly and head-on rather than just leaving it behind, along with all the good things of the job. In so many cases have I seen the problems melt away when identified and addressed in the light of rational discussion.

So much for theory and technique. I've said it all before, and most of you have heard it all before. I reiterate it only because, as I said above, my message is simple and does not change. I have no choice but to repeat myself and try to do it in ways and with stories that make the same point in different settings.

Poem From Confessions of an Accidental Businessman


Why do we keep on keeping on, in the midst of such pressure,
when business is no good for no reason,
when everything done right turns out wrong,
when the Fed does something
and interest rates do something
and somebody's notion of consumer confidence does something
and the dogs won't eat the dog food?

What keeps us working late at night
and going back every morning,
living on coffee and waiting for things to bottom out,
crunching numbers as if some answer
lay buried in a computer
and not out among the people who
suddenly and for no reason
are leaving their money in their pockets
and the products on the shelves?

Why don't we just say screw it
instead of trying again,
instead of meandering into somebody's office
with half an idea,
hoping she'll have the other half,
hoping what sometimes happens will happen,
that thing, that click, that moment
when two or three of us
gathered together or hanging out
get hit by something we've never tried
but know we can make work the first time?

Could that be it,
that we do all the dull stuff
just for those times
when a revelation rises among us
like something borning,
a new life, another hope,
like something not visible catching the sun,
like a prayer answered?

- James A. Autry, Confessions of an Acccidental Businessman


Jim's assistant, Karen Bailey, can be reached at: 515-321-4815, or by email at skaren.bailey@gmail.com.