International Christian missionary pens business leadership book

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Henry Clay, a Christian missionary and missions-leadership project director for the Navigators, has written his first book. He has many in the pipeline, he says. But his first book, “DRESSCODES: Developing others through evaluated experience,” is a means – he hopes – of developing leaders through “the incidental moments that are often missed.”

Leadership development is not a new venture for Clay, who currently mentors 10 Navigator leaders, nine of whom are serving overseas. He’s also developing a leadership coaching curriculum for the near-90-year-old global Christian-missions ministry based in Colorado. He’s working with college students interested in serving in missions overseas. He and wife Wendy, also a missionary, are very involved in the lives of their children and grandchildren. He preaches on occasion, regularly teaches Sunday School, and he is an active member of Columbia’s Northeast Presbyterian Church (PCA) where Sunday, Mar. 17, he will sign copies of DRESSCODES from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in the church atrium.

We caught up with Clay between travels; he’s only days back from Japan.

W. THOMAS SMITH Jr.: Why this book? You’re a professional missionary. So why a book about a formula for business leadership development?

HENRY CLAY: Although it is written in a way that mostly serves a professional environment, leader development transcends the sacred and secular divide. No one is born a leader. But most people end up leading at least someone at some time, and they have to figure out how to do that. And a part of leading is raising up the next generation of leaders, i.e. leader development. This book is an attempt to put a developmental tool into the hands of leaders all over the world. When leaders grow, everyone benefits.

SMITH: There are many books on business success and leadership development. What makes this book unique or as I’ve heard you say, “uncommon?”

CLAY: There is one big idea that a large part of a person’s development comes through learning from what they have already experienced. This book develops this idea and moves quickly to providing a tool that is simple to learn, easy to remember, and enjoyable to use. If done well, it harnesses the power of great questions coupled with deep listening that can be utilized in all leadership environments.

SMITH: Are there any secrets to leadership that everyone misses or that leadership coaches fail to articulate to others?

CLAY: I don’t imagine that I am smart enough or experienced enough to nail that one. But one thing I am seeing in my contexts is that new leaders don’t have a clear overall idea of what they are supposed to do. There is a level of fog that seems to predominate, coupled with a frantic busyness that results in their people not feeling very well led. Add to that the fact that most new leaders don’t get any coaching in their role beyond a brief discussion of their job description, and you have a recipe for mediocrity.

SMITH: Your father was a Naval officer. Has that dynamic in your life influenced your approach to leadership?

CLAY: My father retired as a lieutenant commander after 23 years in the Navy when I was just eight-years-old. And of course, the rest of his life was marked by that experience. I think the transition to civilian life was a hard adjustment. Looking back, I can see where he would have profited from someone coaching him through that time.

The military provides such a structured environment and a defined career path, and moving out of that is quite an adjustment. As far as how that influenced me, I think I viewed leadership in a narrow positional way, and as a result, I didn’t see myself as a “leader” for much of my life. But understanding that leadership has more to do with influence and initiative than what ‘hat’ you are wearing has helped me embrace and steward the opportunities God has entrusted me with. I still have a lot to learn.

SMITH: Would top-tier executive-level leaders – CEOs of multi-national corporations, flag and general officers – benefit from this book?

CLAY: With the world changing at such a rapid pace, there is an ever-increasing need to lead with a developmental mindset. This needs to be part of every organizational culture. And even though books and courses are helpful, nothing takes the place of intentional personal investment in the growth and welfare of your key people. That said, most leaders would say they’re not really sure where to even start on doing that well. DRESSCODES provides you with a powerful tool that you can put to immediate use. Organizational culture flows from the mind, heart and practices of the top leaders. They must own that and make the most of it. If they want a nimble, growing, humble environment in their organization, they must find ways to model and live it out.

– DRESSCODES is available at

Author: W. Thomas Smith Jr.

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