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21 people who influenced me in 2010

2010 has gone. But I don’t want to get too far into 2011 without pausing to highlight several leaders who have inspired me over this past year. I am constantly seeking out ways to grow as a leader. Most leaders I know go through some process at the end of each year… some recap their accomplishments some highlight books they’ve read. This year I decided to reflect on the lesson I learned from people who were most influential in my life in 2010. While reading often helps, I must admit I learn way more from working with and observing people in action. In 2009 some of the people who most influenced my growth and trajectory as a leader were people like Bill HybelsJessica Jackley, Mark Newton and  Robert Guerrero. Some of the leaders I learn from have more recognizable names than others. Some of the them I know personally and some of them I watch from a far. But all of them are talented capital “L” Leaders who inspired me to think differently and take specific actions as a leader.  I was thankful to learn from them in 2010.

A couple quick notes before I get to the list.

  • Yes there are 21 people in the list this year…next year there might be 30 or there might be 10.
  • There is no priority to the list…
  • I don’t always stick with leaders on the best seller list…I look far and near for people who sharpen me.
  • Leaders were added to this list if there were specific examples of how they or their work influenced my leadership in 2010.
  • I learn and I am inspired by many people each year. The people on this list have inspired me to make specific changes in my life and in my leadership.

Among all the amazing  things that Fady does with his life, he influenced me most in 2010 with his WePartner initiatives. Fady has an ability to bring all different kinds a talents, temperaments and cultures together and get them focused on hands on ministry. He has a vision where he sees highly trained professionals donate their time to for the sake building local communities in the name of Christ. His efforts reinforced my thinking in 2010 that all companies and all professional can play a dual ministry role.

KARL-HEINZ ZIMMER – Managing Director of Willow Creek Germany / Switzerland
This guy is a true kingdom hero. I don’t feel comfortable sharing too much of his story publicly without permission. Let’s just say that the steps of faith this man has taken throughout his life are simply amazing. KARL-HEINZ ZIMMER is a true passionate leader who absolutely loves God through Jesus Christ. However, during a trip to Germany in early 2010, I was very much influenced by the way this world class leader is also a world class father. The guy knows how to celebrate as well. Church leaders don’t often lead their family lives as well as they lead their ministries. Karl-Heinz has shown me that it is possible to do both well. It was inspiring for me to see his relationship with his adult kids and the love his family has for each other.  If, with God’s help, I could be half as successful as he is as a father and as a leader in the church, I would be doing alright.

Well, I can’t say that I know Eric Schmidt personally, but I must admit, I am heavily influence by his leadership. His blurring of  the lines between conventional enterprise technology and the technology as it revolves around the individual user experience coupled with his continued expansion toward leveraging all levels of the cloud computing environment is hard to miss. Even if this guy and the entire Google machine scares the crap out of you, I recommend following his activity. I don’t know him personally, but I do think he is an effective, unconventional leader. Actually, I believe that the more Google sets a pace for cloud based user driven services, the more churches will look to for profit companies who offer these huge architectures with a better user experiences that are offered for free to non-profits. I am more concerned about losing business to companies like Google, who make most of their money on for profit ventures and give services away to non-profits and charities for free, than I am concerned about losing business to any of our current competitors. I have great respect for our competitors and actually appreciate the accountability that competition brings to the table. The Google business model is a business theme we should all be watching. Even if churches, charities and the entire world never fully trusts Google, they have a powerful business model that is being followed by others.

DANIEL PINK – Author, Thinker
I also heard Daniel speak at the 2010 leadership summit at Willow Creek Community Church. I am overwhelmed by the all the ideas I get when I read or listen to him speak. His work into what “drives” and motivates us influenced many of my leadership decisions in 2010. We even implemented our own version of what Daniel shared as one of the Top 3 motivators for people…Autonomy. In like fashion to the example he shared in his talk at the Summit, we set time each month between our software development sprints where our developers get to work on anything they want to work on. The only rules are that their solution has to propel our movement forward as an organization and they have to share their results with the rest of the team at the end of the week before the next sprint. I’ll be following Daniel’s work in the future, his creative approach toward motivation and leadership is very inspiring to me.

PASTOR MIKE NEAL – Senior Pastor, Glorious Light Church, Chicago, IL
Pastor Mike Neal is the real deal. He and his bride Dee, against conventional thinking, followed a prompting by God to launch a church on the South Side of Chicago. Mike is one of the most collaborative leaders I have ever met, and he is a dear friend. However, in 2010 it was his teaching straight out of Matthew 14:22-34 along with he and his family living out his beliefs that influenced me to step out in faith and leave my comfortable long-time position at Willow Creek Community Church. You can bet there is a Top 5 things I learned from Mike Neal blog post in the future.

DR. PAUL WROBBEL – Head of School – Trinity Oaks Christian Academy
Dr. Wrobbel  serves as the Head of School for Trinity Oak Christian Academy in Cary, Illinois. Up until the time my family and I moved from Illinois to the Tennessee, I had to privilege of serving with Paul on the board of that school and very much appreciated the privilege. Paul had a vision to create a strategic plan that would carry the school well into 2020. I learned a great deal from Paul’s attention to detail and his methodical, optimistic approach toward visionary strategic planning. Pauls methods for developing his teaching staff using ongoing peer learning versus traditional teacher workshops also influenced my think about developing staff in general. The students and faculty of Trinity Oaks Christian Academy are very blessed to have Dr Wrobbel at the helm of the school.

MARK WHITE – Director of Sales, Shelby Systems
Ever since I met Mark White I have been impressed by him. He is just the kind of guy who projects a can-do, competent  spirit. As I have gotten to know Mark over the years he has continued to impress me with his wide range of knowledge and wisdom. In 2010, however, Mark’s talent for developing customer relationships along with his ability to work under extreme pressure has influence me in my leadership. Mark is also a faithful and tactful truth teller and personal leadership therapist. I can also count on Mark for a balanced, objective and Godly perspective. My goal is to pass along the same behavior.

JOHN GREEN – Chief Operating Officer, Shelby Systems
I have very much enjoyed getting to know and work with John Green over the past year. John has been a senior leader in business world for at least a hundred years or so…. 🙂 He is the most detail oriented person I think I have every met. In fact, His ability to balance his high energy and high level progressive vision with “steal trap” like attention to detail is amazing to me.  John’s ability to bring in nuggets of business leadership skill into my life has been very influential to me. I also very much appreciate John’s view of ministry. John loves Christ and he very intentional about having a holistic view of what it means to be Jesus with skin to the world around us. I am excited to continue to learn from him.

GINA JONES – Independent PMI Activist
If Gina is reading this…I hope she appreciates this title. Gina has operated at several Officer levels of leadership. I have always appreciated her wisdom, truthfulness and encouragement. In 2010, Gina was my Project Management Institute (PMI) mentor. Technically, she knows her stuff and is able to pass along what she knows to others with great effectiveness. However, watching her in action at Willow Creek before I left staff was very influential to me . Her ability to calmly yet effectively work through the rigorous process of moving an organization through a project was frankly amazing. No exaggeration…she makes something that most organizations fail to bring to life look easy. I was very blessed to learn from her. Now I too can almost preach on the importance of PMI practices in all organizations.

BLAKE MYCOSKIE – Founder, Chief Shoe Giver, Toms Shoes.
I heard Blake speak at the 2010 Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church. Like Fady Eldeiry, Blake also has a vision where corporations do more than just make money. The company he founded, Tom’s Shoes donates a pair of shoes for every pair it sells. They have given over 1,000,000 pairs of shoes to people in need around the world. His vision is inspiring. However, it make me more determined than ever to transform wherever I may have a tiny bit of influence into a platform of compassion and justice.

Blake also influenced me in other ways as well.  I was so inspired by the styles of leadership that Blake displayed at the Summit that tried an experiment at my new job at Shelby systems. Like Blake, I decided to move out of my office and move into a cube so I could work amongst and with my team at Shelby. I turned my office into what we call the  “bullpen,” a place for all of us to hash out tough problems and flesh out new technology ideas. I don’t know if I will work without an office forever, but it has been a great and productive experience so far.

Senior Pastor Iglesia Comunitaria Casa de Adoration, Guapiles, Costa Rica
I met Pastor Alvarez early in 2010 on a serving trip to help install a computer lab at his church. He influenced me with his passion for holistic ministry and his creative unconventional ways he connects God’s word and God’s love with his community. I was also inspired by his very calculated strategy to reach family’s in the community and to reach those who have been shunned by society. For example, Teenage pregnancy is a very serious problem in many areas of Costa Rica, His church offers job skill and life skill classes for young girls who have become pregnant, guiding them toward the love of Christ, toward dignity and toward practical skills they can use to support themselves and their child.

Senior Pastor, Iglesia Templo La Hermosa en San José, Costa Rica
I will always have a picture in my head of Pastor Arturo and myself laying on the floor of his church, in San José, Costa Rica, and laughing as we terminated network cables together. Pastor Arturo is an extremely Godly man, a gifted leader, articulate teacher, and high level strategic thinker. He is the senior leader of a large congregation shepherding them almost every weekend with solid biblical teaching. His church also plays a significant role in the community offering many holistic services to the city of San José. One day he can be comfortable in a suite and tie and next day he is equally as comfortable wearing jeans and a T-shirt crawling around in the floor doing hands on ministry. I’ll never forget his Christlike example of servant leadership.

CARLOS GOMEZ – Technologist at Esperanza International, Dominican Republic
Carlos Gomez has to be one of the smartest people I have ever known. I have known Carlos for a few years now. However, this past January, when Carlos flew to Costa Rica from the Dominican Republic to round out our 2010 computer lab installation team, my respect for him soared to a whole new level. Carlos is a computer generalist. He is at home configuring a Linux server environment, but he is just as comfortable configuring a Windows box or coding in multiple application platforms. He can discuss systematic theology, politics, sociology and science at a global level. He is quite comfortable discussing the history of the Dominican Republic in great detail. However, he can also discuss U.S. History with equal precision and expertise. Carlos was very instrumental in influencing my decision to move a large portion of our software platform at Shelby Systems to Microsoft’s Model View Control platform. Carlos’ development platform of choice is open source PHP. But is general technology knowledge is extensive. I trust his expertise and would be honored to serve with him anywhere in the world.

BRYAN LORITTS – Lead Pastor, Fellowship Memphis
Before moving to memphis, Fady Eldeiry told me that he worked with this guy Bryan Loritts when he worked at Lake Avenue church in California. He said, “I think he now works at Fellowship Church in Memphis. If I lived in Memphis I would go there.” My bride and I took Fady’s advice and decided to visit the church early in our adventure to Memphis. I had never heard Bryan teach. Actually…all the teaching pastors at the church are equally amazing teachers. However, it was Bryan I first heard cast the Fellowship vision for solid Biblical teaching coupled with a passion for Christ centered community transformation along with Biblical justice and compassion that hooked me and my family into Fellowship. I know many people who have moved away from their home town and have struggled for years to find a new church home. My family and I feel extremely blessed.  Additionally, Bryan does not mess around…his very candid real-life teaching style has radically expanded my view of Bible teaching. I am so excited to think that after 24 years of following Christ, I can still be blind sided by God’s word. And I can still be inspired to pass it along in new ways.

PASTOR REGGIE TUCKER – Senior Pastor, Orange Mound Outreach Ministries
I recently met Pastor Reggie when our company, Shelby Systems, partnered with him to sponsor a family at Christmas. Both he and his bride Mary are definitely the dynamic duo as they work to bring Christ to their community one family and one child at a time. Reggie is yet another, “step out of the boat” story. He and his bride both live at the ministry center right in the heart of the Orange Mound Community. I am, of course, inspired by the hands on ministry that they bring to the neighborhood. However, while I was there serving, I was most influenced by the amazing rapport that Reggie has with the kids in the neighborhood. He is a pillar of stability, direction, wisdom and order for many young people in his community. And many of them respond with the utmost respect.

BEN JORDAN – BigBadCollab CoFounder, Freaky Talented Designer, Marketing Philosopher.
Many people don’t know this about me. But I a extremely passionate about art and about the arts in general. Part of who I am as a leader and as a person requires me to continuously pursue and refine this passion. Ben Jordan is hard guy to pin down with a title. However, of his many dimensions, he is an amazing artist. The truth is, it is kind of scary how talented the guy is. However, in my good moments, I can be a good student and I have been watching and listening to his design wisdom. I have been following Ben for many years now. However, one example of Ben’s influence on my artistic worldview from last year was when I was blessed to sit in on a class he gave sharing some CSS tactics in web design. The technical stuff was great. However, it was Ben’s signature artistic style that most influenced me. I should also mention that Ben’s marketing philosophies that encompass to entire user experience have also had a profound influence on my approach to marketing. However, that he and Mark Newton’s primary influence on me in 2009.

MICHAEL GRABER Southern Growth Studio, Executive Concept Director
Michael Graber is another one of those scary smart people who are constantly looking for new ways to solve problems and provide solutions that change the world. His marketing firm, South Growth Studio, did an in depth market analysis for Shelby Systems. The results of his work has been invaluable to me. On a more practical note, I learned a great deal from Michael’s in depth 360 degree approach to market analysis. Plus I have to give Michael credit for turning me on to Daniel Pink even before I saw Daniel speak at the Summit last year.

I have to admit. Seth Godin had a strong influence in my role as a leader in 2010. Now that I have the privilege of leading marketing at Shelby Systems as well as technology, I will be leaning in to Seth’s wisdom even more. Seth has helped me solidify my entire framework of leadership. I know that sounds dramatic. But his fingerprints are all over the leadership model that I draw out often. The guy has a way of articulating things that inspire and motivate people in a way that connects with me. So I have to give credit where credit is due.

JOHN PITZAFERRO – CEO, Transnational Bankcard
I think there is a theme forming in the business leaders that I have been attracted to learning from in 2010. John leads a bank card processing company. This past year I think I shared his business model as a prime example of the “business of the future” no less than 20 times. John basically has a regular for profit company. However, he has built a business model where he sells credit card process to merchants at a competitive prices, but he sells the same service to non-profit organizations at cost. He is so passionate about this venture that he actually hired a full-time staff member specifically to oversee the non-profit vertical of his company. For those reading this post, the savings that get passed on to churches and other charities can amount tens of thousands of dollars per year for a single organization. I really do think this will be a trend that those of us who have business models built directly on serving non-profits should be ready for.

Another long-time influence in my life who has come up again this year is Ken Blanchard. For over 15 years now Ken’s methods have been influencing my leadership style. Now I am passing his wisdom on to others. I had the privilege of sitting in more of his Situational Leadership classes last year and I learned even more. It never gets old. I strongly recommend Situational Leadership to anyone who responsible for leading and managing people. I really believe that it is the clearest and most concise management methodology on the planet.

DAWN GOLD – Bride, Mom, Freelance Missionary…
Please don’t think that I am just being a sappy romantic husband who is trying to score some points with his wife. Actually, Dawn’s faith was a huge influence to me in 2010. During my transition from Willow Creek staff, she was willing and many time more excited and more passionate than I was to follow God wherever he may lead us.  If we ended up in the South Side of Chicago planting a church, she was fine with that. If we ended up in Memphis, no problem. She really was an example of steadfast faith in a year of extreme change. I am excited to see how God is going to bless her faith in 2011.

I want to mention a special group of people who were very helpful to me in 2010. I call them the refreshcache group.  They are a group of Arena community developers who have been very influential in my decision making process as a leader at Shelby Systems, Inc. Specifically, I want to call out 4 of them by name…Nick Airdo, Daniel Hazelbaker, Joel Lingenfelter and Jeremy Hoff. These guys have a great deal of passion for Christ in for ministry. I have appreciated their passion. To be fair, there are many talented people who have played a significant role in the development community of the Arena Church Management Platform. However, these four individuals stand out. Their fingerprints are on the future of the Arena platform.

As I end this post and conclude my little ritual of reflecting on some of the key lessons I learned from some amazing people in 2010, I will risk sounding a little trite when I write that I won’t end without a clear prayer of gratitude to God. It is just my heart to share that I stand in Awe of God as the beginning of any wisdom I may have learned in 2010. I am extremely thankful that by His grace through Christ, He has lead me to cross paths with some amazingly talented people who have influenced me toward growth. I looking forward to learning more in 2011.

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