Building Leadership,
Cultivating Humility

josh-wymore-body-image.jpgJosh Wymore, Ph.D. ('08)

Dr. Josh Wymore (LETU ‘08) has a passion for helping people live and lead with purpose and clarity. As an executive coach, keynote speaker, and trainer with WYMORE, Josh has helped Fortune 500 leaders around the world become more of who they were made to be. His book, Humbler Leadership, explores the ten mindsets and skill sets leaders can practice to become humbler. Our NOW team connected with Dr. Wymore this past spring semester to reflect with him on how his time at LETU prompted his vocation in leadership
training and how his recent book may connect people to a greater peace and purpose in their work. We hope you enjoy the following highlights from that conversation.

What was your experience like at LeTourneau?
Some of the high notes: Intramurals, Stage Right (theater club), worship band with Dr. Nathan Green, and a lot of other really fun things in that experience. But just overall, the things outside of the classroom and the mentors that brought me into contact with were the highlight for sure. On the first day of orientation, I remember meeting my peer advisor, Brittany Prince, who is a fantastic human being. She showed us around and guided our group. I wondered what her job was and she told me that she was a peer advisor. She explained that her goal was to help students adjust to college and help get them acclimated. I then decided that I wanted to be a peer advisor for the next three years and that’s what I did. That was one of the richest experiences of my life and definitely of my LeTourneau experience—to invest back into new students and have a way to serve, connect, and see them grow over the course of a year. It was also a chance to work on a team of incredible Christian leaders who cared about being their best and growing. It was that energizing experience that really took me on the path that I'm on now.

How did your experiences at LeTourneau prepare you for leadership?
I was an assistant softball coach during my time at LETU because I thought I was going to be a high school football coach and math teacher. But in the softball world, I had to invest in the technique, strategy, and all that kind of stuff so much that there wasn't a lot left for just coaching the person. In peer advising, I had to do just that. A mentor told me that there’s a whole field of work called student development which involves all of the co-curricular activities I loved outside of the classroom. That took me on my path to graduate school. I initially was torn between becoming an engineer or a teacher. I spent about a semester and a half as an engineer and felt like I didn't have enough patience for the technical problems, so I shifted to education. When I decided to go to grad school, I ended college with a math degree and continued peer advising. I also built a student affairs internship into that last year while preparing for school.

Your recent book is titled “Humbler Leadership.” What is it specifically about humility that you believe to be so important in leadership?
Focusing on humility is hard because it's not the trendiest thing. It's not like other styles of leadership, such as servant leadership. It's really a foundational character trait that enables you to do all the other kinds of leadership. Part of humility is the teachability and growth mindset that enables you to achieve your full potential as a leader. This has been transformational in my life, and was a large reason behind why I decided to write this book. When I worked with Brad Bowser (as I talked about in the book) he had tools I didn't have and I'd never seen before. But I knew I had to be humble. I heard about humility in church, but it's one thing to know and another thing to want it. Seeing it in action made me realize that I wanted the effectiveness and the peace that came with humility. I’ve tried to incorporate humility in my life over the past five years and have noticed I have fewer disputes with my wife and listen to my kids in order to ask them useful questions. Integrating humility into my life has helped me be less infuriated with my kids because I'm able to let them lead me to ask them good questions.

As I left higher education and transitioned to working with leaders directly coaching and training them, I spent a lot of time helping Christians become better Christians. But now, half of my clients aren't Christians at all. And so, I'm trying to help them become more of who they were made to be, and they lack this assumption that I had that we should probably be humble. For some of them, the idea of humility is non-negotiable. I had to figure a way to introduce the idea that would appeal to a wide range of individuals, many of whom are research- and data-driven. That's why I decided to write on that topic.

Based on the concept of flourishing that you touch on in your book, what does flourishing look like in college? Is college even worth it?
There is so much growth during your time in college. The decisions a 17-year old makes versus a 22-year old are vastly different. I first got interested in LeTourneau because I thought I wanted to be an engineer and it had an engineering program, but the reason that I love LeTourneau and tell other people to go there is because of the relationships I built, the experiences I had, and the mentors who invested in my life. Dr. Brent Ellis was the dean of Christian leadership when I was a student. He officiated my wedding, did my marriage counseling, hired me for a job ten years later, and was overall a great mentor. And that's the kind of thing you get at LeTourneau that, having been at Penn State, is a lot rarer at a large state university. The faculty-student relationships and the engagement outside of the classroom are the two strongest predictors of a successful college experience. I also got to do theatre, intramural sports, coach, tutor, and be a peer advisor. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be involved like that at another larger university.

I also became more of myself at LeTourneau. Coming out of high school, I felt like a fish out of water. There weren't a lot of other strong Christians in my school. When I got to LeTourneau, it was like, "These are my people!" It was as if all of the best youth group leaders were in one spot. We hung out and got things done. I felt like I had the all-star lineup of guys all on my floor, and the formational impact they had on me was so huge. College is a great place to figure out what you want to do because it expands your horizons. You meet people from all over the world and learn about majors and jobs you never considered. It's not for everybody, but I think it is such a powerful and formational experience.

Speaking of flourishing, tell us about the “Shalom of the earth” that you bring up in your book. Why does this resonate with you?
It's an idea that really came after my time at LeTourneau. There really are some theological differences between the theology that says, you know, God's coming, he's going to burn this place down, so you better get out of here and you know, take whoever you can with you. It's like a sinking ship: you have to get off. As opposed to another theological tradition which is more like, "Well, no, God's going to fix this ship, and we get to help fix it. He's going to fix it with us." And so, the different implications of the latter theology is that what you do here matters. I think Martin Luther said something like, "God loves a cobbler not because he etches a cross in his shoes but because God loves craftsmanship." The idea is that all of our work has dignity and has merit. And so, when I think about what I do now, I'm amazed and humbled that I get to help leaders become better leaders. And the reality is that if they become a better leader, the people they lead are going home a little bit less stressed, a little bit more encouraged, and a little bit more energized. This means they're better parents of their kids, their kids do better in school, and the teachers are less frustrated. It has this ripple effect, this chain reaction. And so, it's creating these little pockets of peace—of flourishing—whenever leaders get better. Craig Groeschel says that when a leader gets better, everybody wins. And I think that's what he means: that if you become the most focused, purposeful, healthy version of yourself, the fruit just naturally flows out of that. When we're connected to God as the vine, we don't have to exert a lot of effort to squeeze out the fruit of the spirit. I can't push out peace by just trying really hard. If I'm connected to the vine and there's nutrients and water, peace will come from that. Flourishing comes as leaders are healthier. And so, sometimes that means salvation. Sometimes that just means a less dysfunctional workplace where our policies make sense, people are held accountable, and we actually get things done. Man, life is so much better when you live in one of those kinds of environments.

Josh Wymore speaks in chapel.In thinking about the future leaders of workplaces, what words of encouragement would you give to an undergrad student preparing for their future?
I think there's some unnecessary pressure to feel like you’ve got to get it right and find the one thing you enjoy. The reality is that most people don't have a clear idea of what they want to do well into their careers and even change their minds multiple times. I'd like to normalize the mindset: "There's no one answer that God’s hidden from you and you've got to be holy enough to uncover it." But there are ways to get closer to work that is better aligned to your strengths and your passions. In the book, I talk about aligning your strengths, passions, and what brings flourishing in the world. I think that's a nice paradigm. In terms of how you do that, especially when you're at LeTourneau, one of the great privileges you have there is an abundance of experiences. I think about what helped me become a leadership coach now and it's the different opportunities I had in college. I jumped into softball coaching because I had envisioned a career as a high school coach and math teacher. I later found out that I care more about coaching the whole person rather than coaching in a sport. I could do many things that coach people: working at a non-profit, working as a business manager, etc. It opened up many more opportunities for me.

In closing, when looking back on your college experience, what is one takeaway related to life and learning that you still reflect on?
While I was getting my Ph.D., I had an interesting conversation with a friend. I asked her what she wanted to do with her degree, and she had no idea. All she did during her undergrad was study in her room to maintain a 4.0 GPA to get into grad school. She didn’t volunteer or get involved in any clubs or extracurricular activities.

Academics will continue to be the focus while in school, but try doing other things that aren’t academic related in order to branch out and find some other strengths and interests that you could use in your career. At LeTourneau, there are things like intramural sports, acousticafé, and Hootenanny, that you can get involved and find your passions and God-given strengths. Find time to interact with different types of people and build connections.

When I got to grad school for my master's, my goal was to be a college president. We had one of that university's presidents emeriti, Jay Kessler, come in to speak. I asked him how to become a college president. He shared a quote from his mentor, Milo Rediger (the president when he was a student) who said, “The faithfulness of today determines the task of tomorrow.” Being faithful with what God’s given you today will open the door for the next thing. Whatever you find yourself being faithful with right now, that's what honors God. That's what slows down time and helps you enjoy it and make the most out of that season you're in.