A College President’s Perspective: Successful Young People Share These Qualities with 550 World Leaders – Michael Lindsay

What can 550 elite world leaders teach us about raising the next generation? Michael Lindsay distills lessons he learned in his 10-year one-of-a-kind study and 2014 best seller, The View From The Top, and he communicates how to apply these strategies for today’s young people. As a college president, Lindsay knows what it takes to develop young “platinum leaders” that are led by virtue and faith, as well as their own struggles. Be prepared to be inspired by their stories!

leadersAward-winning sociologist and educator Michael Lindsay is the eighth president of Gordon College, and one of the youngest college presidents in the country. He is known as an expert on religion, culture and leadership.

The View From The Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World, Dr. Lindsay’s most recent book, was released in May 2014. It reports the findings of his 10-year PLATINUM Study, the largest-ever interview-based study of senior organizational leaders—including former Presidents Carter and Bush, and hundreds of CEOs at the nation’s largest corporations and nonprofits.

Lindsay’s Pulitzer-nominated Faith in the Halls of Power was listed in Publishers Weekly’s “Best Books of 2007.” His work has been profiled in hundreds of media outlets worldwide, and his research has been funded through fellowships awarded by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Academy of Education and the National Science Foundation.

He and his wife, Rebecca, live with their three daughters on the campus of Gordon College just north of Boston.

A College President’s Perspective:
Successful Young People Share These Qualities with 550 World Leaders
~ A Conversation with Michael Lindsay

Reading time: 3.5 minutes, (718 words)

On September 18, 2018, Michael Lindsay, the eighth President of Gordon College and one of the youngest college presidents in the country, served as the keynote speaker at the 33rd U.N. Prayer Breakfast.

Lindsay certainly earned the right to speak to 225 leaders about leadership.  In 2014, he authored the best-selling book, The View From The Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World, the largest interview-based study of senior leaders to have ever taken place.

On a recent BaseCamp Live podcast, Lindsay shared with host Davies Owens what he learned from interviewing over 550 leaders and how his findings relate to raising the next generation.

Platinum leaders are distinctive yet highly durable

The View From The Top, a massive project spanning over ten years, serves as a “distillation of key leadership lessons” gleaned from interviews with over 550 leaders.  These include 250 CEOs of the largest companies in the world, presidents of Harvard, Stanford and Princeton and heads of every major non-profit.

In the interview, Lindsay highlights three especially memorable biographies, including Condoleezza Rice, the 66th United States Secretary of State, and Horst Schulze, founder of Ritz-Carlton.

“Because I had done so many interviews, I had developed almost a sixth sense about these folks.  I learned you can discern someone’s character by how they treated their administrative assistant, the ways in which they talked about their colleagues…the language becomes a window into the soul. I learned some of the things to look for…people we call ‘Platinum Leaders’.

Like platinum, which can be raised to very high temperatures but doesn’t melt, true leaders find strength because of, not despite, their struggles.

Parents: develop a “T-shaped” young person

To instill similar leadership qualities, Lindsay suggests a “T-shaped” approach for parents seeking to raise the next generation.

The top of the “T” suggests a breadth of experience while the stem symbolizes a sustained depth.

First, a T-shaped young person must develop a “liberal arts” approach to life by trying out a myriad of activities. But they should also learn to excel in one or two areas for “a sustained period of working in a subject or a field.”

Secondly, since such dedication will inevitably present challenges, create environments where kids can fail and grow through the struggle. Choose nurturing schools and churches and cultivate a supportive family atmosphere.  Frequent BaseCamp Live guest Keith McCurdy has also talked about raising sturdy kids.

Finally, travel makes a huge difference in shaping and widening your child’s experience.  “We found that travel before you turn 18 was a key indicator of having a breadth of understanding and experiences.”

Investing in future leaders through Classical Christian Schools

When Owens points out that kids also travel through reading “living books” in classical Christian schools, Lindsay agrees and confirms that that “great leaders are great readers.”

“What we’re doing in classical Christian education or in a place like Gordon is we’re investing in the next generation. The 550 people I interviewed help me to be reminded day in and day out that the investment we’re making is creating virtue,” Lindsay says.

The greatest examples of leadership come through the challenges we experience

The world leaders at the U.N. resonated with Lindsay’s message as he shared his own struggle of parenting a child with special needs.  Indeed, Lindsay’s research confirms that “the common thread of leaders is struggle.”

And while “not everyone is going to become a CEO…we are each given a responsibility in our respective callings and we have to be prepared to be in the room when major decisions are made and then in that moment to draw upon our Christian faith in a very positive, winsome way.”

We should listen to a man who has been soaking up wisdom from world leaders…and pass that wisdom to the young people rising up.

Key Takeaway

To hear some fascinating interviews from his book and to find out what President Lindsay says he’s looking for in applicants to Gordon College, listen to the BaseCamp Live podcast.  Hint:  it relates to how our students are learning to think, speak and write with excellence in classical Christian schools.