John Derry’s Thought Leaders

We asked 35 Christian leaders, “Who is the influencer with the biggest impact on your life and ministry?” Most of these leaders listed several influential thinkers, writers, innovators, and leaders more of us should get to know. This response is from John Derry, president of Hope International University, Fullerton, California.


There are almost 100 books about leadership on the shelves in my office and on my e-reader, representing 40 years worth of reading and studying the subject. Among them are several by Jim Collins, John Maxwell, and Peter Drucker. I have learned much from these prolific writers about what is necessary for corporations and organizations to be successful. Although their work focuses primarily on business enterprises and the corporate world, I appreciate the practical application and relevance of their insights to faith-based nonprofit organizations.

Don Jeanes
Don Jeanes

Sometimes we are tempted to think Christian churches, colleges, missions, and other ministries must operate using principles that are only “spiritual” in nature, and that introducing concepts used in other settings may be somehow inappropriate.

These authors emphasize a common theme of developing the people around you and bringing out the best they have to offer to achieve your mission. Two men with whom I had the privilege to serve in higher education demonstrated this very effectively. Dr. Marshall Leggett and the late Dr. Don Jeanes, both former presidents of Milligan College, knew how to encourage and inspire others to fulfill their potential and strive for excellence. I often reflect on challenges we faced together and how they trusted and empowered campus leaders to pursue their goals. They impacted the way I seek to create a culture at Hope International University, where we value the unique gifts of each member of our leadership team.

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