In your book, you mentioned that these leaders have a "liberal arts" view of life. How do average folks cultivate this appreciation for different subjects and perspectives in their work?
I find that you have to be intentional to develop that kind of approach to life. It doesn't occur naturally, because we tend to spend our time among people who are pretty similar. We tend to get the news from the circles of people that agree with us. We tend to not challenge ourselves.
With the people in View From the Top, part of the reason they got to the top is that they had cultivated this liberal-arts approach when they were 20. It's generally not something you do when you're 70. It's something you develop.
Is this a reading diet? People you spend time with?
Yes, it's about reading. Where do you get your information from? Do you have a regular practice of checking news sources that don't align with your own philosophy? So, I tell my students one of the best things they can do is get a subscription to Christianity Today and The Economist. The Economistis really important. It's different—you're getting a more European-centered view of the world, not American-centered. You're able to get a broader vantage point.
I tell my liberal students they need to watch Fox News once a week. And I tell my conservative students they need to watch MSNBC once a week. You have to get to a place where you have a wider diet of input.
It also means cultivating a habit of attending lectures, being exposed to experiences that are different than their own vantage point.
One of the people who most impressed me during my research was John Mendelsohn, who just stepped down as the head of the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He was a world-class cancer researcher and a top-flight scientist. When I was doing the interview, he was reading a book on the history of opera. What does the history of opera have anything to do with leading the world's leading cancer center?
It's so rare to find people like that.
But it's not among these people! They develop a lifestyle that has that kind of breadth. They're great conversationalists. They make connections. Now not everybody is reading about the history of opera. But they're intentionally building practices in their life that give them a wide variety of experiences.
This is why the preaching of Tim Keller is so popular among these individuals. Because he's so widely read. If you haven't read classical literature since college, you can get snippets of it in Tim Keller's preaching.
Tell me about the "leapfrog method." In 2003-2004 you started interviewing prominent evangelical leaders, and in ten years, you were able to meet some of the most powerful leaders in the world. Tell me about how you were able to open up these networks over time.
In social science, there are two methods for selecting participants in a study of elites. One method is to choose by reputation, based on recommendations from others. A second method is to choose by position, which is to say, "I'm only going to talk to CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies and that's it."
The kind of research I was interested in was a little more textured than just choosing people with important positions. I was interested in the kind of data I'd get if I interviewed a former American president or a cabinet secretary who's no longer in office. I was less interested in "What do you think about President Obama?" and more interested in how you get things done. You didn't have to be an office holder for that to work. I decided I wanted to do a combination of those two approaches.