NEW YORK, Feb. 16 (JTA) — From Persia to Wall Street, there’s a lot to be learned from Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story. Call it the Esther effect or call it good business — it’s the practical businesswoman’s guide to success, starring Queen Esther. In a book by two female authors — Barbara Smalley, a writer, and Connie Glaser, a businesswoman — Queen Esther of Persia deftly imparts timeless lessons on “palace politics” to modern readers. The stuff of biblical tales, it seems, has become the stuff of good business. While Jews will be taking a lesson from the story of Esther to celebrate Purim on March 7, Glaser and Smalley’s new book, “What Queen Esther Knew: Business Strategies From a Biblical Sage,” says there are lessons about business strategy to be learned. Glaser says she had an “Aha moment” when she realized that the heroine of the Purim story embodied the characteristics she had been teaching women for years as a corporate-communications consultant: poise, effective communication and the conviction to stand up for what you believe in. “The story of Esther is not only about miracles, but also about intellectual and spiritual resources,” Glaser said in an interview. In their pithy, pocket-sized book, Glaser and Smalley focus on the story of a Jewish girl who becomes the queen of Persia and goes on to save her people from the wicked Haman, as well as the principles gleaned from Esther’s tale, and the authors’ modern-day Esthers. “The book weaves together ancient wisdom and modern insights,” Glaser says. “There is a truth here as valid today as it was 2,400 years ago.” That truth is neatly packaged into chapter-sized lessons for Glaser and Smalley’s readers: Dress to take over the throne. Carry yourself like a queen. Establish a royal presence. Deal effectively with life’s Hamans. Beyond the catchy phrases and nuggets of wisdom is some good advice. With the help of biblical consultants and their colleague’s success stories, Glaser and Smalley dispel gritty how-to’s to today’s driven women. “In addition to the overarching lessons one learns about having courage of one’s convictions and taking on leadership when called upon, there are more practical strategies about communications and plotting strategy that could have been in the Harvard Business Review,” Glaser tells JTA. By Glaser’s estimate, the book’s most significant chapter teaches communication skills — of which Queen Esther was a master. When she addresses her husband, King Ahasuerus, Esther dresses royally — modern readers, think power suit. In preparation for asking the king to save the Jews, she invites him to her quarters — “Negotiators today know you have more clout and control on your own turf,” Glaser says. Esther learns that the king is indecisive — “Study palace politics or corporate culture.” Esther befriends the castle eunuchs who advise the king — “Don’t make the mistake that the receptionist, the janitor and administrative assistant aren’t important!” But is Queen Esther today really a business model, rather than just a Purim costume? “Esther is emblematic of women’s journey to self-empowerment,” Glaser says. In the booming industry of business guides, taking lessons from biblical characters is not new. Several years ago, Rabbi David Baron wrote “Moses on Management: 50 Leadership Lessons from the Greatest Manager of All Time.” There’s even a book called “Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership.” This is not Glaser and Smalley’s first collaborative effort. They’ve co-authored four other books together, including a well-known guide for businesswomen, “Swim With the Dolphins.” They’ve included some of the same in “What Queen Esther Knew” supplying anecdotes about their own business heroes — like Sherron Watkins, who went public with her knowledge of Enron’s accounting scandal, and Cynthia Cooper, the whistle-blower at WorldCom. Glaser says Esther can be as iconic as the costumes she inspires for girls each Purim. The story includes sound Jewish values like having compassion, having the courage of one’s convictions and standing up for one’s beliefs. “We all have, at some point in our lives, a time like this — when we are called upon to meet the challenge and take the mantle of responsibility. Ultimately, that defines who we are and it reveals our character,” Glaser says. In the story of Purim, Esther is transformed from a deferential, meek girl into a vessel of confidence who alters the course of Jewish history. “I think therein lies the greatest truth of the story, that she became empowered as a queen when she had courage of her convictions,” Glaser says.“What Queen Esther Knew: Business Strategies From a Biblical Sage” is published by Rodale (www.rodalestore.com).
Queen Esther’s business tips