Michal by Jill Eileen Smith
Kim Ford 

Author Interview

Kim Ford Interviews Our Featured Cover Author
- Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt

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 share them.

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.

I 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 http://michaelhyatt.com.

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.

During an 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.

Obviously, 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 you?

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

against 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.

Is 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 lovers?

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 digitally.

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 years.

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.

Twittering is 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 transformational.

You are 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.

What exciting 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 they unfold.

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 Him.


Kim 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