Chapter Summaries

Management scholars resurrected the idea of calling in the 1980s and 1990s, but the original idea is at least 2000 years old. Hence many different disciplines have been engaged in the conversation about calling for centuries. To explore these diverse perspectives, I have divided the book into three parts.


1. Conversations about Calling  This chapter provides an overview of the entire book and puts management scholars’ recent interest in calling in historical and cultural context. 

Part 1 Management Conversations About Calling, 1980-2012 summarizes management scholars’ attempts to understand calling and examines the three different perspectives that emerged: secular and individualistic, spiritual or transcendent and sacred. Part 1 concludes with a synopsis and critique of the process of knowledge construction related to calling, while highlighting the need to understand perspectives from other disciplines. Because Part 1 is a literature review, it is written in academic language, yet is still accessible to a variety of readers at a high level.


2. Secular-Individualistic Calling 

The dominant perspective in management asserts that calling is focused on destiny, passion, and enjoyment, and therefore individuals. Moreover, these scholars contend that calling is now a non-religious idea. This perspective pervades management scholarship and some segments of society, without considering its implications. However, there is theoretical and practical evidence to the contrary.


3.  Transcendent Calling

A minority group of scholars contend that, at the very least, calling is transcendent and spiritual but not religious. Further, it is not merely concerned with individual desire, but also adhering to social standards.


4. Sacred Calling

The sacred calling is least discussed in management and has not been a topic of much research. However, this perspective may offer insights into why calling was thought to energize organizational performance and fuel economic growth.


5. Calling in the Iron Cage

After 20 years of scholarship, there is still no theory of calling. This is due to the way that scholars have constructed knowledge. Instead of avoiding theological literature for ideological reasons, this chapter argues for expanding the conversation to identify and include theoretical insights from other disciplines, which occurs in Part 2.


Part 2 Other Conversations About Calling explores practitioner perspectives about calling, which convey a more expansive and nuanced understanding of the concept. Using real life examples, as well as historic theological and management insights, these chapters illustrate how a calling operates in daily life, as well as the causes and consequences of its diluted meaning in Western culture and organizations. Part 2 will be of interest to readers who are deeply interested in the topic of calling, either to motivate themselves or others, as well scholars and practitioners (e.g., counselors, consultants, and clergy). Familiar stories and people make these chapters more accessible to the average reader.

6. Practitioner Perspectives (1980-2012): The Essence of Calling
Modern practitioners that wrote during the same time as modern management scholars came to very different conclusions about the essence of calling. Here, we learn that calling is multi-dimensional rather than singularly focused on passion and destiny. 

7. Case Example: Unthinkable
Unthinkable illustrates how a group of people relied upon the core dimensions of calling,  reinforced by a guiding worldview, to navigate the vicissitudes of denied, delayed and
fulfilled callings.

8.  Practitioners Perspectives (1980-2012): Callings in Business
Entrepreneurship, business and leadership can also be part of one’s calling, but they are rarely discussed that way.  By examining these callings, practitioners reveal how a calling unfolds across space and time.

9. Ideologies & Industrialism (16th-21st Centuries)
There is wisdom about calling scattered across the centuries. What did calling mean in bygone eras and how was that meaning diffused? What happened to dilute the meaning of calling and what are the implications for organizations and society? This brisk survey of the historic meaning of calling provides surprising insights about the practical reasons for reclaiming and reinforcing the original idea.


In Part 3, Connecting Conversations in Theory and Practice, I connect all of the conversations in a theory of calling and use a familiar case study example to illustrate how the theory can be applied in practice. I conclude by suggesting ways to cultivate the callings of youth and adults, with hopes of restoring the calling’s former vigor in modern life. 

10. A Cross-cultural Theory of Calling

What factors should be considered when measuring a calling? This chapter presents a theory that can be tested empirically. It also offers suggestions for future research.


11. Case Study: Not Your Average Working Joe

How do you apply the theory and what does a calling look like in real life? “Not Your Average Joe” is the case study of how one person lived his calling, as well as the obstacles, insights and growth that occurred along the way. (Read Excerpt)


12. Cultivating Calling in Emerging and Established Adults

Young adulthood is the ideal time to cultivate calling. However, recent studies suggest that it may even be cultivated in mature adults as well. This chapter suggests methods and institutional partnerships that can be used to effectively educate people about how to live their callings.