by Dr. David Seibel, Head of School
“I want to help grow fruit on other people’s trees,” is the caption that belongs next to Doug Wilson’s picture. Doug Wilson has a broad business background and is now Executive Chairman of Monon Capital. He gets the most joy out of seeing other people be successful. This business leader knows that you cannot staple fruit on other people’s trees through copying and pasting tactics of external behavior. Instead, lasting fruit comes through being connected to the vine (Jn 15:5) through character formation in intentional community.
Three words highlight the impact that Doug Wilson has on those willing to listen: formation, coordination, and communication. If those ‘shun’ words seem too abstract, picture ‘formation’ as geese in the Flying V, imagine ‘coordination’ as the geese changing positions for who is flying at the point, and think of ‘communication’ as the geese honking at each other as they fly through low visibility weather.
Formation: Geese in the Flying V
Younger geese learn from more experienced geese when it comes to how to travel long distances successfully. Doug Wilson is one of those experienced geese who knows how to advise younger geese on their journeys. For Doug, it is less about the goals that you achieve and more about the person you become in the pursuit of those goals. Formation is all about relationship to God, others, and the culture around us. Doug said,
“I grew up in an environment where there was never a distinction between the secular & sacred. We live in such a fragmented society. We need to be able to see God’s work all around us.”
Technology today dehumanizes, filters and shapes our view of God, others, and culture. Doug utilizes healthy rhythms to surround himself with truth, goodness, and beauty.
“I intentionally put myself in the pathway of beauty everyday. I host a lot of meetings at the Harrison Center for the Arts or I’ll visit with a CEO in downtown Columbus. My office is a functional art gallery.”
Roger Scruton once said,
“Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it does not matter.”
Doug is worth listening to because he has moved beyond the factory model of leadership that is merely about standardizing process, eliminating waste, reducing cost, and increasing specialization through division of labor. Instead, he sees all work as an opportunity to glorify God with an eternal frame of reference. Return on investment goes far beyond a P&L sheet since beauty matters.
Through Doug’s time at Lily, he spent two summers at Babson College, a supercharged MBA program for high-capacity leaders throughout the globe, where he learned the finer points of scaling a business. Instead of leveraging this training and his other experiences for himself, Doug has chosen to see himself as a subcreator, an institutional artist of sorts. Because we are made in the image of God, we can create beautiful things that outlast any one individual and reflect the artistry of our Father. Doug has chosen to not to fly solo on his journey.
Coordination: Changing the Lead Goose
As you can imagine, the lead goose gets tired from flapping his wings in the face of the wind which means that the up and coming geese get a chance at leading the flock in one direction. Doug has learned that he does well flying as an advisor to those at the front of the V formation. He has served as a director, trustee, or advisor of several institutions and companies including Warner Pacific University, EDGE Mentoring, Telemachus, Fields Park Trust, Sagamore Institute, T&H Investments, Discovering Broadway, Windrider Institute, Sinapis, Chatham Ventures, and Lost Valley Ranch. Doug is very curious but is not scatterbrained or undisciplined. Doug said,
“Focus is overrated. Institutional problems are rarely due to a lack of execution. My experience is that people over rotate to execution when we really need to be coming down the ‘better idea’ path.”
You’ve likely heard it said that everyone needs a Barnabas (someone coming alongside encouraging), a Timothy (someone you’re pouring into), and a Paul (someone further along mentoring you). Doug Wilson is a great combination of a Paul and a Barnabas for leaders. He wants to see them finish their journeys. He takes joy in seeing fruit grow on their trees. I long to see myself and many others find more joy in others’ successes. This is why I love education because you get to see the next generation find out their gifts and experience success.
Communication: Honking at Each Other
During turbulent weather and low visibility, geese honk at one another as a navigation system for their journey. They will honk at one another to keep track of everybody’s location and also to encourage one other to keep going. Doug Wilson is someone who likes to honk encouragement in the ears of others flying towards their goals. Each time I met with Doug, he brought me classical books from the Trinity Forum where he used to serve on the Board. Everybody needs someone honking in their ear to keep going.
“I’ve known Dr. Michael Lindsay (read his Project Legacy article here) for more than 20 years. I built the presidential fellows program at Lilly modeled after the Fellows Program that he built at Gordon College and then brought with him to Taylor University where he serves as President. This program was designed for emerging leaders so that they could learn what was happening 4 or 5 layers up inside the organization.”
Rather than building an altar to himself, he built a ramp for others.
In conclusion, Doug’s example begs the question of anyone reading—how are you investing yourself into others? What seeds are you planting that will bear fruit on someone else’s tree?