Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a Manufacturing Founder

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the third of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.


Jim co-founded a manufacturing company in South Asia focused on creating jobs for the marginalised and exploited.

1. What is your philosophy of leadership?

Know the principles you believe in and follow them when you encounter difficult decisions.

2. What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

Probably 4 years at the Air Force Academy and 7 years active duty. They strongly emphasized character in leadership and following core values, which for the Air Force are: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.

3. How has your view of leadership changed over your years leading a BAM company overseas?

I’ve realized that taking the “nice guy” route is easy, but isn’t always the best thing for the people you lead.

4. If you could rewind the clock to when you first arrived overseas to work in business as mission, what leadership advice would you give yourself?

Figure out the systems while the organization is small, then scale it. Fixing messy operations after the fact is very challenging!

5. What are some of the areas of leadership that could improve among missional business practitioners?  Where could we all do better?

I think we are often not intentional enough in training young leaders who are going to grow and take on more responsibility. We need to use professional tools available to help our people develop, things like regular, formal reviews; honest feedback, criticism, lessons learned from projects; goal setting for improvement, specific leadership training times; etc.

6. How do you intentionally develop your leadership talents and skills?

Read! Recently The Good Job Strategy by Zeynep Ton and When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett.

7. How are you personally involved in mentoring or raising up leaders in your context?

We do a monthly leadership lunch at our company. We went through the book 7 Habits of Effective People. Recently we covered a teaching by Andy Stanley called “Trust Gap.”

8. What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring leader?

Learn from all of your past leaders, the good and the bad. Sometimes the bad can teach you more than you think.

9. Who is the most effective leader you have ever known personally, and why?

Brigadier general Andy Armacost, Dean US Air Force Academy. A super-geeky guy, whose enthusiasm could win over the biggest critic. Took a cynical organization culture and got everybody on board toward a common goal.

10. What is one book, aside from the Bible, that has most influenced your leadership?

Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni


Interview by Chris Cloud, with thanks to Jim.


Read Lessons from Leadership 1: Interview with a Multinational Owner

Read Lessons from Leadership 2: Interview with a CEO to CEOs

Read Lessons from Leadership 4: Interview with a Coffee Chain Owner


Chris Cloud Chris Cloud is an entrepreneur who has been living and working with his wife in Nepal over the past 3 years. He is passionate about helping companies and individuals identify their perceived growth ceiling, and break past that ceiling. He is partner at a firm in the U.S., ALIGN. ALIGN helps leadership teams clarify their “true north” and gain traction by aligning every aspect of the organization to that vision. He holds a degree in business administration, but counts his 12+ years of starting or serving in a series of fast-growing startups as his real entrepreneurial education! 

On a good day, you’ll find Chris running up a mountain or snowboarding down one. You can connect with him here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ccloud/