STORY Q&A – Leader2Leader

Define leadership.
Establishing trust among a group of people that you are doing the best you can to carry forward under a given vision.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
There’s no doubt at all that it’s Jesus Christ. I’m a person of faith. First and foremost, that’s who I answer to and it’s who leads me. I have been blessed with some mentors and people who have influenced my life and we have great leadership within the tribe that influences what I do, even on our board of directors as well.

What excites you most about the future of Southwest Michigan?
I see a real commitment in terms of planning and action by leadership to inspire more leaders and to do what we can to make the best of this area.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
The most important decisions are those that impact the foundational values of the tribe that can be applied to our people. We’re talking about integrity, trust, and respecting our culture and our heritage. As a leader, I must then work with the people of the Mno-Bmadsen family of companies to figure out how to communicate those values within so they understand fully who we so to as not violate those values.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
I think truth. I know that sounds like an obvious one. In recent years, my experience has been that there’s this trend of where everything sounds like a sales pitch. Honesty goes a long way in terms of relationships and the success of our operation because, without honesty, you don’t know whom you’re working with. You don’t know what really is going on. If you don’t have that sense of clarity that is absolutely necessary, you’re going to have failure at some point. You see it in politics, but now you see it in business and in a lot of things. We need to step back and be a lot more honest about how we do things.

What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Probably missing the talent side. Not taking seriously the people that they’re hiring. It may be to try to save money. It may be because you’re just not as keen on what talent does for your organization. I think there are a lot of hard lessons that come from not having the right people.

What do you do for fun?
Usually family stuff. I love to travel. When I can, I hop on a plane and go somewhere different, whether it’s Dallas, Fort Myers, Orlando or wherever. Work takes me to different places, too, which is nice. I have family in Florida, so it’s nice to be able to go and visit them there, as well as in Tennessee. I like to travel when I’m not working. I spend a lot of time working, and it’s a big part of my life. My life consists of work. It consists of church; I’m the assistant pastor at our church and teach Bible studies there. And, I read.

What’s your “go-to” spot to eat lunch in Southwest Michigan?
Here in Dowagiac, it’s either the casino or Zeke’s. When I’m in Kalamazoo, I enjoy Food Dance. That’s kind of my hangout when I’m there.

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
I would be teaching Biblical studies, without a doubt.

If you could go to dinner with three people who would they be?
Billy Graham. Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton.

What are three things that you cannot travel on business without?
My phone, my Surface, and my Bible.

Briefcase or backpack?

Who would you most like to meet and why?
The person I’d most like to meet is Jesus Christ. I think, in terms of my spiritual life, I’m able to do that. He’s able to provide that meeting on a daily basis through the Holy Spirit. If we go outside of him as the most important person in my life, I’m not sure if there’s an individual outside of him. I mean when you develop your faith and you make that connection to Christ, things kind of pale. This is going to sound like an obvious statement, but this is God we’re talking about. When I start measuring people up to him, including myself, there’s not—It’s not that I don’t have respect for people and there’s a lot of people that I really like to work with and enjoy working with and everything—but, He would be the central focus.

How do you get your most creative ideas?
Generally, my most creative ideas come after I’ve had a hard day’s work or when I’ve been through a lot in terms of thinking. What’s extremely helpful for me in terms of decision-making is getting a quiet weekend or quiet day where I can sit down and let thoughts clear out and then come back to them.

What inspires you?
What inspires me is the knowledge that the work I do daily is going to have a real impact on people in one way, shape, or form. We always have to be considerate of what we do and how we do it because we know that it impacts how another person feels.

Long-term, it’s what we do at our company that helps people. We’re having an impact on job creation for our tribal citizens, for people throughout the community, even for vendors and suppliers and contractors that work with us. What inspires me is knowing that there’s a direct impact on people and their lives and being part of improving their quality of life.

What are your daily routines that keep you developing as a leader?
I try to step outside of the stream of information that I get from a lot of our businesses and from our team and read a little bit about the industry we’re in. It can be anything from pulling up something online or getting some information that helps me understand more about 3D printing or the latest in plastic mold design or Architecture Digest or something. I try to find an article on something that I can peer into that can give me a glimpse into some creative thinking. Then, I like to take that information and have those conversations with people that lead those companies.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
I think the biggest challenge is that our society is in a little bit of turmoil. We are lacking solid leadership on a national basis. I’m not trying to get into politics as this has been going on for some time. We used to have leaders that, even if you didn’t necessarily agree specifically with their strategy, you agreed with their foundational values and you trusted them. There was a sense of truth and doing the best you can for the country, state, society, or whatever the endeavor was.

What is your favorite leadership book?
The Bible. In there are principles that explain and cover very basic precepts of leadership. It’s leadership by humility and trust which can have a great effect on the organization and the people you lead. It’s not a leadership by force or deception or anything like that.

What’s the App on your phone that you can’t live without?
Amazon Prime.

How do you maintain your and your team’s daily motivation?
If anything you do is worth its weight, you’re going to have problems. Nothing good comes by accident. Some people are lucky and they fall into things, but generally, most things require a lot of hard work, effort, smart thinking, and planning. During that process, you inevitably run into problems, market issues, competitors, naysayers, and other issues. There’s two ways you can react. You can go, “Well, I’m going to stick my head in the ground.” Or, you can actually be tenacious and have a little bit of fun, keep a smile on your face and even crack a joke. I do the latter.

What are you doing to ensure your continued growth as a leader?
I get involved with organizations that I believe have a real impact. One is Southwest Michigan First, an organization I see at the forefront of making progress here in Southwest Michigan. It’s not just because they talk about doing things, but because I see their results, action that’s in play, and how that action has impacted the area. I chair the Cass County Economic Development Corporation and am on the Board of the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance. Service to these organizations really helps me be a part of what’s happening in this area.

What is your “Life Quote?”
It would be one of the pivotal verses in the Bible (John 3:16): “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. That whoever believes in him has everlasting life.”

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