Heeding My Call

Call it divine intervention.

When I was in my thirties, facing the challenges of raising a blended family of six children and leading a struggling company, I was fortunate to be part of a vibrant church led by an inspirational rector, Ed Salmon.  I envied how he had the opportunity to touch the 500 members of the congregation with his message week after week.  As I listened to his sermon one Sunday morning, it dawned on me that I too had a congregation—a much larger one comprised of the thousands of team members in our business. And while Rector Salmon had only one hour per week to reach his audience, we have our team members 40 hours each week.  Moreover, because we are engaged in an economic enterprise, we have a powerful opportunity.  It was at that moment that I realized that my leadership of the business was a tremendous opportunity to touch the lives of those in our care.

Organizations can use their influence to positively impact the lives of the people within them. Click To TweetSince that moment in the pew, we have had many experiences that embody that power.  These experiences have led us to the understanding that when we focus on creating a fulfilling experience for those in our care–when we focus on making sure our team members feel empowered, validated, cared for and integral to our shared vision– there is a ripple effect in their lives.  They return home each day better spouses, parents, friends, neighbors, citizens of the world.

I now feel called to spread these leadership concepts with those outside our organization, in the hope that others will be inspired to take this people-centric view of leadership into their own organizations. This forum allows me an opportunity to reach beyond our walls to share our insights, experiences and strategies as to how organizations can use their influence to positively impact the lives of the people within them. You’ll get tips on how to grow yourself as a leader, be introduced to other leadership and cultural development authorities, and learn about the initiatives we undertook to transform the culture in our company into one through which both our team members and our business thrive through Truly Human Leadership.

Grab yourself a pew.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.


  • Bob,
    Love the site (the words and the spirit). Stepping on stage to talk to a congregation, for me, as a minister, is a small part of connecting with a congregation, albeit an important part. It is also living every moment as example of what is possible, the very thing you are all about.

    I believe that what hurts us in our world today is our inability to see and feel apart of “one human family.” The feeling of being separate from others, and the resultant lack of compassion also shows up within corporate cultures, and stunts creativity, innovation, and the spirit. To achieve a bigger vision for an organization or the world I realize I am called to be the best I can be as part of this “Family.” My guiding statement is, “If I see in you what you do not see in yourself, I am the bridge to your becoming!”
    Thanks for your inspiration!

  • Bob, I’m so glad that you listened to that call and decided to make a difference in many ways. I am glad to find your blog and read your thoughts. People truly make the difference, and empowering them is not just a company slogan. You are putting the efforts behind it to have an impact. Thank you.

  • Bob, I was just introduced to your blog, and reading this first post, I am intrigued and excited already! Each of us has a circle of influence that reaches beyond our households, churches, and jobs. When we look at the number of people we have the opportunity to impact in a positive way, it is encouraging and weighted with responsibility all at the same time. I am looking forward to reading more.

  • Very inspirational! Thank you!

    • Donna g says:

      I just heard Simon Sinek speak highly of you on CBS, I hope your ears are burning! It’s wonderful to see uplifting, positive attitudes and attributes in action. Well done, sir!

  • Dear Bob,

    Thank you for having your inspiration and sharing it with the world in a multiplicity of ways!

  • allisonw says:

    Hello Mr. Chapman,

    When you spoke of ‘divine intervention’ in your post above, it reminded me of something my pastor said a few months ago in his sermon:

    Closed doors are just divine detours.

    I have seen the truth in that small statement above more times than I can count in my own life. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences, even ones with painful memories attached, to help others. You are definitely helping us see your humanity, beyond a title and a business.

    Very Sincerely,

    Allison Wooldridge

  • David Zey says:

    I really appreciate this post and people-centric leadership in general. This post and your experience sums up life for me right now. I am in my thirties currently with a family of 8 and director within an IT company that is struggling in several ways. I have been discovering people-centric leadership without knowing what it was called over the last year and have been working to exemplify and mentor these principals into my teams. The part of this post that resonates most is that in the last two months, I have come to the same profound realization of the opportunity I have to shepherd and care for the hearts of my employees much like church leaders except all week long. That has been a very exciting and sober thought. I appreciate greatly the encouragement words and leadership training provided by you and Barry-Wehmiller. Thank you.

  • Greg L Williams says:

    From the perspective of an “outsider” (not a Barry-Wehmiller employee) who has been blessed with the opportunity to engage very closely with Bob’s team members (employees) at all levels, one of the key differentiators between the Barry-Wehmiller companies and those who “use” empowerment (responsible freedom), recognition, and validation of every person’s worth, as a management tactic to get more from their employees, is the sincerity and genuineness of Bob and his colleagues with regards to giving their team members an opportunity to be all they can be and feel a sense of fulfillment.

    One of the supervisors at Bob’s factory in Spartanburg SC told me “Bob really seriously believes this people-centric leadership stuff, if you don’t really believe it and treat people like you believe it you aren’t going to fit in around here”.

    It’s real, it’s not manipulative at Barry-Wehmiller.

  • Bob Chapman says:

    Attempting to control what people think and do sounds like traditional management in business! Of course it happens everywhere; it’s the very thing we’re struggling against. There’s a risk with any leadership thought or idea that it will be manipulated to one’s own purpose. Certainly we’re not perfect and I suspect it happens within our own organization. Rather than focusing on the negative and putting mechanisms in place, we focus on inspiring people toward true leadership and encourage each person to become whatever they are meant to be in this world—celebrating their unique gifts along the way.

  • Srikumar Rao says:

    That is an uplifting vision, Bob and I have personally seen how this has enriched many lives at some of your companies. I wish there were more Owners/CEOs who thought deeply about the larger purpose behind their being in the positions they occupy.

    But what is a mechanism to prevent such an attempt to empower and validate employees from becoming an attempt to control how they think and act? Have you seen this become a problem at other companies or even some of your own team members?

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