Leadership Styles, Guarding Your Heart and Growing Healthy Organizations



GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally.

JEREMIE: I should probably speak in my more posh accent. I live just outside of London, and that’s where I’m calling from today. We live right by the River Thames, overlooking some famous old Downton Abbey-type grounds. It’s really quaint and pretty over here. My wife and I are from Oklahoma, originally. We’ve lived in Atlanta. I have three teenagers, 16, 12, and 12—well, almost teenagers. We’re having a blast over here, expanding what we do globally.That’s why we moved to London—because of the global nature of the city.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally.

JEREMIE: I should probably speak in my more posh accent. I live just outside of London, and that’s where

I’m calling from today. We live right by the River Thames, overlooking some famous old Downton Abbey-type grounds. It’s really quaint and pretty over here.

My wife and I are from Oklahoma, originally. We’ve lived in Atlanta. I have three teenagers, 16, 12, and 12—well, almost teenagers. We’re having a blast over here, expanding what we do globally.That’s why we moved to London—because of the global nature of the city.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a bit about the GiANT companies as a whole. What was it years ago, that started marinating in your heart and in your mind about GiANT? How did this whole idea come about? Tell us a little more about what you guys do and what you’re trying to accomplish within culture today.

JEREMIE: With the name GiANT, a lot of people think, “Uh, okay. That’s kind of a cool name and big and braggadocios, maybe.” But what it really stands for is, “David Nutgrass and David Noetzel.” The whole idea was that you can do big things in a humble way. In our brand, it’s big G, little i, and then capital A, N, T. That has really given us the opportunity to serve leaders andhelp them grow their businesses, but in a humble way, or more as David-type men, who are after God’s own heart.

We started the company in 2002, so it’s been about 12 years. My founding partner, Matthew Myers, was in Oklahoma City. We were looking at people like Richard Branson, who is building Virgin, and similar examples. Virgin Air, Virgin Cola, Virgin Media, and more. We wanted to create a brand that was big but had humility at the core. What if it had the purpose of serving people, helping them to understand who they are,helping them grow healthy organizations, and helping them become healthy leaders?

That’s what GiANT is. We have GiANT Partners, who handle consulting, and GiANT Capital, which has venture capital works, and GiANT Impact, which is our events brand in Atlanta. GiANT Worldwide is where I’m working, currently. I’ve built the latest and the newest instance. I start them. I get them up and running, and then turn them over to people, who are better than I am, to run the program for the long-term.

A man named Steve Cockram, who is British, founded GiANT Worldwide with me. He is awesome, and we’ve got about sixyt-five associates around the world now. We’re doing work in Moldova, Romania. We’re just starting to work in the Middle East. We have offices focused on Africa, Europe, and the UK, and then we have a lot of activity in America.

The purpose of what we’re doing is basically apprenticeship. The whole idea is to develop a system where 90% of the employees in an organization are affected by leader development. We create visual tools, because most adults are know-it-alls, have ABB, and are cynical. We create visuals that are easy to pass on, and it’s like creating a language.

We create a leadership language inside the company, conduct small groups, and teach people to virally apprentice other people in order to spread the leadership language throughout the entire organization. It’s about changing behavior, because people are now using the language.. They know what the terms mean, and it’s really, really fun. That’s a part of what we’re doing right now.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: That is amazing. Very, very exciting. I’ve had a chance to check out and be a part of some of your events, like Catalyst, and I just love what you guys are accomplishing and the far-reaching effects that you guys are having. Kudos to you and your team for staying faithful, man.

Here at Gospel Driven Entrepreneur, we tend to focus on a few key concepts in the journey of entrepreneurship. Over the course of the last twelve years of navigating this organization, and starting a lot of internal arms of the organization, what would you say has been one of your biggest failures? With that, what did you learn from that failure and how did you bounce back from it? How does that, in the long-term, end up helping your organization?

JEREMIE: The most obvious example has happened in the last three years, as I was running Catalyst and LeaderCast, specifically through our GiANT Impact team there in Atlanta. We have a matrix we use that’s called the, “support challenge matrix,” and it give language to leadership. I have to quickly explain it quick to be able to tell you my weakness. There are basically four quadrants. There’s high support and there’s low support, and there’s high challenge, and there’s low challenge.

We call each quadrant by a different name. A Liberator is someone who brings high support and high challenge at the same time. We also call the person “Jesus Liberator” because He is a liberating leader. He is the ultimate liberator.

The other quadrant is a Dominator. It brings high challenge and low support. Then you have others that mainly have a lot of people in a small space, specifically bringing high support but low challenge. Then the last one, and the worst one, is low support/low challenge. The Abdicator.

You have Abdicators, Protectors, Dominators and Liberators. What happened was that I realized that I was a Protector by nature. My failure is that I had a hard time sharing my expectations with people. I would hint.

If you worked for me, PJ, I’d go, “Hey PJ, how are we doing with the event next week? Is everything going well?” I’m trying to get information from you. I’m hinting. You’d go, “Yeah, I mean it’s good.” So, I get a report, but it’s not exactly what I want. So, I come back with another hint, “Hey PJ, Melissa said that you (insert task). Can you give me that?”

Then, three days later, again, it doesn’t happen. Then I realized I was moving from a Protector—not sharing my expectations or challenge early on— and I would slide under stress and become a dominator. I’d go straight down to that. “Okay, PJ. Well, if you can’t do it, I’m going to have to do it myself, or I’ll get someone else who can do it.”

I realized that, in leadership, that I’m a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’d go back and forth in this leadership spectrum, whereas Jesus was a liberator. He brought support, and he brought challenge consistently. He wasn’t afraid of bringing challenge. A lot of people see Jesus as a lamb. He is so nice. Just turn the other cheek. But he is also a lion. He is a lamb and lion at the same time. He is a liberator. He fights and he serves.

The picture that I use from that, which influences a lot of what we’re doing now, actually came out of my failure, and other’s failures. We are realizing, “God, this is who I am. I keep doing this to people.” I saw this picture of a GI, and it was in World War II. He had a Jewish concentration camp victim in one hand, and he’s got a gun on the other hand. He is holding this guy, but he is firing the weapon at the SS guard. I thought, that’s it. That’s the picture of what leaders are to be. They’re firing and shooting, and they’re protecting and serving.

It’s a combination of support and challenge. I’ve now become focused on learning how to share my expectations. “PJ, we said that by next Thursday, you’re going to have this. Specifically, did you do XYZ?” Then I can deal with it, versus blowing up later and shifting.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: That is so good, and so very practical. I know that was a valuable lesson for you, and I see a lot of that in myself, navigating between the liberator and the dominator. Bouncing back from your failure and looking at one of your biggest successes in the journey of your entrepreneurship, what would you say has been one of your biggest successes for GiANT, or even just for you? What have you learned from that success?

JEREMIE: I think my biggest successes come simply through relationship and connectivity. We’ve had a lot of successes. We’ve had a lot of partnerships. We still have a lot of interactions, and I think the sheer nature of being authentic, being real with people, connecting with them, and having people know that it’s relationship before opportunity, lets walls fall down. For instance, today I was meeting with a very large five-star hotel chain over here in London, about a partnership with them on a leadership space. We thought about all the things we would want if we were them.

At the very end, they said, “So you mean, that’s it? You’ve thought out five things for us and only two for you.” We said, “Yeah, if I were you, this is what I would want.” I think people weren’t expecting that, and so what happens is favor. We get favor, and people want to be around this, so they invite us in.

When I go to places, I don’t stay in hotels. I stay in our client’s homes. Everywhere we go, all of our associates stay with our clients. We stay in the homes of executives of the different companies, and we get to know their spouses and their kids. We get to serve them, and it becomes relationally driven.

If anything, people would know that we really love them. Our definition of love is to fight for the highest possible good for another person—so people know that we’re fighting for the highest possible good all the time.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: Let’s bring it to a personal faith level for you. With any entrepreneur or leader, especially one who is working on a venture over the course of many years, there has to be an underlying sustainability factor there. It’s one that comes from you personally, that breathes life into you, that you get energized from. For believers, I believe that really at the core of that is our understanding of the Gospel and how that drives all work.

How does the Gospel itself drive your work? What is it about the Gospel that inspires you to do what you do?

JEREMIE: Well, when I think of the Gospel, it’s two words I’ve heard, justice and mercy. The Cross is the only time that those two things really meet, where there’s total justice in God’s plan for a need for redemption, if you will, and for the debt to be paid, and mercy at the same time.

In our job, what we do is we spend our time with really successful people. Right now, I’ve got an executive here. We have a retreat center that we live in. It’s a 10-bedroom house where Steve and another associate are doing a leader intensive with the guy. This guy’s very successful, yet he’s going to have an opportunity to see what it looks like to be on the other side of him. He is going to experience justice and mercy today. He is going to experience challenge and have to deal with it, and also the mercy to know that we are fighting for as high a good as possible.

We’ve tried to take the Gospel and say, okay, it’s not theory and it’s not a Bible story. It’s an everyday reality. What does the Gospel mean? It means that there’s justice and mercy and they come together in the form of Jesus. The Gospel is Jesus. It’s just him. He is the Gospel. What takes place then is, “Okay, Jesus, if I want to be your man, if I want to live like I want to follow you, what does it look like? It looks like I am bringing your justice and mercy, or in our words, your support and your challenge to people at the same level—but it’s to fight for the highest possible good. Ultimately, it is bathed in love.”

Jesus is the Gospel and love, and the Gospel is the ultimate form of love. The idea is—okay, Lord, I want to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength today. This sounds so simple to try, but literally, if all of believers could wake up every day for the next 30 days and say, “Today, Lord, please help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let me love my neighbor as I love myself,” then that’s a form of the Gospel. That’s basically bringing a Gospel, because we’re bringing love into our world, which affects all the people around us. What would happen over 30 days if that became a habit?

My point, in my long answer to your question, is that we just see Jesus as the Gospel and then we try to show that to people, through extreme challenge and extreme support, so that they can deal with justice and mercy. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll have an encounter as they look in the mirror and go, “Wow, I don’t like this about myself. I’ve been hiding it. I’m ready to deal with it. Can you help me?”

JEREMIE: This one is perverse, so it doesn’t seem inspiring, but it is to me. Mark 4:19 says, “But the cares of the world, the delight and riches, desire for other things, enter in and choke a man, and prove him unfruitful.” I always tell people in their twenties and thirties to guard their hearts, because by the time you get to in your forties, and you start having some successes, there are the cares of the world. You’ve got three kids. All the things they have are the delight and riches and the management of riches. It’s the desire for other things, whether it’s trips, travel, wine, vacation, whatever is in your TV shows. All of the reality shows, all those things enter in, and you wake up one day and think, “Oh, this is not whom I thought I would become. I missed the Lord,” and it proves a man unfruitful because he’s been choked.

The inspiration for me is to say, okay, help keep me from the cares of the world that would choke me out. Keep me from the delights and riches. Keep me from the desire for other things, whether it’s college football, or travel, or whatever would keep me hindered or choked. Quite frankly, our world is choked.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one tool that you would highly recommend to entrepreneurs, leaders, and others who are trying to move their ideas forward?

JEREMIE: It’s so funny, I use Evernote. I do use Evernote as my place for idea generation, and I link it to certain people. It’s such an easy way to go back and forth, and it’s probably too long to explain. I have this little process called “axis and hose,” and it’s my own process.

Then we have some of our own tools. I’m going to name Evernote in this discussion, but I’m going to say it’s our tools that are actually the best. We have a tool that’s based on priority.

We have a tool for understanding company makeup and looking at it on a weekly basis. We’ve got a tool to help understand whether someone is in balance. So, these are our own GiANT tools.

These tools are on the GiANT Worldwide website, and we give a lot of them away. We just share them a lot. There are a lot of really practical tools, but they’re not in the form of an app. They’re in the form of a concept or a visual, and they’re sticky, and they work. has it.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one book that you would recommend to gospel-driven leaders and entrepreneurs?

JEREMIE: There’s one I’ve read seven or eight times now, and I’m reading it again. It’s “Absolute Surrender,” by Andrew Murray. He first wrote, “Humility,” and that was awesome too.

“Absolute Surrender” rocks my world again and again. There’s “Heroic Leadership,” and it’s the history of the Jesuit movement, which help explain the current pope. It’s powerful, and it’s a good resource.

We do a lot of what you’ve talked about, so those are just a few. And that’s not a listing of the books that I’ve written or am writing. These are things that I’m passionate about, and I think “Absolute Surrender” would be a great resource for anybody.