Michael Hyatt, president and
CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, is a man who is a role model for those
who want to practice effective leadership without diminishing the
importance of leaving behind a godly family heritage. As Michael’s
career goals have broadened and changed over his lifetime, he has
acquired valuable leadership tools along the way, and he is gracious to
The author of four books, a
faithful and prolific blogger, and an active leader in the world’s
largest Christian publishing house, Michael Hyatt encourages all of us
to open our hearts and minds to God’s leadership and the change that is
often required to be obedient.
hope you will be blessed by the many things Michael shares, and that
you will seek out his terrific insight by visiting his blog at
On October 31,
2009, you posted the following quote on your blog: “A society grows
great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never sit in”
(Greek Proverb quoted in Mentor Like Jesus
by Regi Campbell).
Do you view
yourself as someone who “plants trees” for the future? In what ways?
Yes, it is something I have
tried to be very intentional about. This is why I originally started
blogging. I wanted to create a repository for the various lessons I
have learned. (So far, I have written more than six hundred posts, or
about half a million words.) I also teach a weekly adult Sunday school
class. My biggest commitment, though, is my formal mentoring group. I
meet with eight young men, once a month, to help them become more godly
men. We focus on their personal walk with Christ, their roles as
husbands and fathers, and their witness in the marketplace.
interview with the Maximum Impact Club you state: “One of the things
you have to do as a leader is create an environment that is safe for
creativity, and the only way you do that is create an environment where
it is safe for dissent . . . Because it is out of that process that you
are going to get the best ideas. I think as a leader you have to invite
people into that process.”
How easy is it
for you to create this environment at your company, and what has been
the most effective tool to “invite people into the process”?
It is never easy, especially if
you are the CEO. People are often nervous or perhaps feel the need to
posture. I best create this environment when I speak less and listen
more. I have tried to get better at drawing people out and being
genuinely fascinated by their answers. I also try to foster
healthy—sometimes vigorous—debate. At the same time, I have to affirm
people who disagree with me or “the Company.” I have found that you get
more of what you notice and celebrate.
You have also
stated that you must have “transparency in leadership.” Your blog does
a tremendous job of allowing people to get to know you. I’ve been
reading your blog for more than a year now, and you are always
teaching, encouraging, and challenging others, but not without
including yourself as part of that process. Does your personality
naturally lend itself to this transparency, or was this something you
had to grow into? Tell us about that journey.
I think I am naturally this way
in person; however, in 2000 I became concerned about what technology
was doing to our privacy. I ended up writing a book on the subject, Invasion
of Privacy: How to Protect Yourself in the Digital Age. It’s
almost laughable now. I have done a complete about-face.
From a technology point of view,
I think privacy is almost nonexistent. We need to get over it. Yes, I
understand the security risks, and I do think you have to be smart. But
I think leaders especially must embrace transparency. It is one of the
most powerful leadership tools we have available. It creates
life-change more than any other single thing you can do. It also
creates a much needed accountability.
I have read
that it was your intention to go into ministry after college, and that
once you began working in the publishing industry, you fell in love
with it and never left. Do you view publishing as your ministry? In
what significant ways has it impacted the way you reach out to others?
Yes, I definitely see it as my
ministry. It’s not my only ministry, but it is the most foundational.
When I look back over my life, my biggest growth spurts are directly
related to the books I have read or the conferences I have attended. I
don’t think it’s an accident that Thomas Nelson’s two primary
businesses are books and conferences. (Thomas Nelson owns and produces
the Women of Faith and Revolve conferences.)
On a personal level, I am
constantly giving away books. I can’t possibly say everything that
needs to be said, so I try to direct people to other resources I
believe will be helpful.
books have had a profound effect upon your life. Other than the Bible,
is there one book, or a set of books, that has had a lasting or
memorable effect upon you? What is that book and how has it impacted
This is always a difficult
question. So many books have profoundly influenced me. If I had to pick
one, I would chose On the Incarnation by St.
Athanasius. It has a wonderful foreword by C.S. Lewis.
Athanasius wrote this book at
the age of eighteen. He was defending the traditional—and biblical—view
of the incarnation
the Arians who were teaching that Jesus
Christ was not fully God. The incarnation is, of course, the most
fundamental of all Christian teachings. I think it is especially
foundational for Christian artists—that God became man, sanctifies
matter, and ultimately demonstrates the created order is worth saving.
It is the philosophical basis for Christian art and a theory of beauty.
there a book that you reread? If so, why?
The Art of War
by Steven Pressfield. He talks about the resistance everyone faces in
creating art, whether it is writing, painting, or cooking. If you are
going to succeed as a writer, you must defeat the resistance. The
chapters are short and very inspirational. I keep rereading it because
I keep encountering the resistance. It is constant warfare.
You talk a
great deal about social media, something that is profoundly affecting
the publishing industry, and you have even said that one day “physical
books will become an afterthought.” How soon do you envision this
transformation? How will technology win the hearts of die-hard book
I don’t think digital books will
ever completely replace physical books, any more than light bulbs have
completely replaced candles. However, they will eventually exist only
as artifacts for aficionados. Everyone else will consume their content
I believe we will see more than
50 percent of all books published in a digital format within ten years.
Consider this: The conversion to digital music only took about seven
While you may not personally
prefer digital books to physical books, your children will. And if not
them, surely their children. The reason for this is that the market
hates friction and inefficiency. There are few things less efficient
than killing trees, printing thousands of books, shipping them around
the world, and then taking them back in the form of returns. Everyone
knows this model is badly broken—and expensive. Hundreds, if not
thousands, of very smart people are working hard to completely
eliminate this model. It’s only a matter of time.
Do you think
some of this technology will initially be price prohibitive?
No. I can’t imagine a more
expensive system than we have now.
practically a stream-of-consciousness type of networking. Do you think
it blurs the line between public and private life? Do you think there
is some danger inherent to publicly displaying your private thoughts?
If so, why?
Yes, I think there is a risk
involved. You have to be careful. It does blur the line between public
and private life, but I also think that is what makes it powerful.
Being personal and being transparent increases brand loyalty. I have
had hundreds of people tell me that they never connected with my
company, Thomas Nelson, until I became active on Twitter. Suddenly, the
Company had a face. My followers felt connected to a real person.
The apostle Paul told the
Thessalonians, “So, affectionately longing for you, we were well
pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own
lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8 NKJV). He
didn’t hold back. He gave them everything. And because of that, it was
purposeful about making time for your family, yet you realize that many
others in society live disconnected lives today. How do you encourage
those around you to live more connected lives that enable them to
“unplug” from the technology that drives our world?
I think you stay connected by
being present. This means when you are with your family, you put down
your iPhone or your laptop and give them your full attention. I think
it is imperative to take the initiative to define your boundaries and
then respect them. For example, one of my boundaries is that I leave
the office no later than 6:00 p.m. Life is more than work. We have to
be attentive to the legacy we are leaving.
things is God doing in your life right now? Any closing words of
encouragement you’d like to share with others?
The biggest thing I am learning
right now is to trust fully in what my heavenly Father is doing. He is
not almost sovereign; He is completely sovereign. He works all
things together for my good (Rom. 8:28). This includes the
big things, the little things, and the seemingly insignificant things.
By nature, I am a chronic
worrier. I image every possible scenario, including the worst case.
That almost never happens. I end up wasting a lot of time and energy on
stuff that never comes to pass. I am learning to just let it go and
trust God to give me the strength and wisdom to deal with situations as
I think writers in particular
must learn this. It is difficult, more than ever, to be a successful
author today. The competition is stiff. Shelf space is limited. You
feel the pressure to be involved in the marketing, including social
media. At times it can be overwhelming.
Like Martha, you can get busy
doing many things and miss the one thing that is needful: to sit at the
feet of Jesus and enjoy your relationship with Him. This is why He
created you—not so you can do stuff for Him but so you can commune with
Ford has been a resident of
Alabama for more than ten years. Originally from Georgia, she holds a
Bachelor’s degree in English from Brenau Women’s College. She has spent
the past 9 years in sales and marketing and has been an avid reader of
Christian Fiction for more than 20 years.
A mother of two teen sons and married to a technical writer and Army
veteran, Kim’s life is full and blessed. She and her husband also
volunteer as teachers for a resident rehab program for women with
life-controlling issues. She uses her fiction to encourage the ladies
she teaches. She blogs at: Window
To My World