As Christians, we are called to follow Christ wherever he may lead. For some, this means pursuing overseas missions. For others this means volunteering time and resources to local churches and charities. For David Vittoria, the founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Ascendi, following Christ means striving to live out the gospel on a daily basis in the fast-paced world of corporate business.
As a coach dedicated to improving employee communication and leadership skills for businesses around the globe, David spends much of his time meeting with business executives either in person or over the phone. Whether he is training leaders in efficient time management or delivering keynote speeches at seminars across the country, David preaches (and seeks to live by) a simple mantra: “Try to lead like Jesus.”
Though the principles he teaches are familiar to many church attendees, David is often surprised by the reactions he observes from his clients. “You would think we etched these concepts on tablets and brought them down from the mountaintop, judging by some of the startled reactions I’ve witnessed. We share innovative ideas like: ‘love your people’, ‘do what matters everyday’, and ‘hey man…just say what’s real!’ This may sound corny, but if more leaders taught their companies to simply follow the Golden Rule, 90% of people would love their jobs (instead of the 10% that actually do) and I’d be (gratefully) out looking for another one. Maybe I should stop delivering seminars and start giving out the Bible!”
When it comes to his style of leadership and the leadership style he teaches, David cites Jesus as the ultimate role model.
“Jesus said what was real, and was never ambiguous in his intentions or his actions.”
“Jesus said what was real, and was never ambiguous in his intentions or his actions. He had great communication with his boss, and clearly and decisively instructed those who followed him. We try to do that every day. We practice open, direct, and authentic communication in our workplace – up, down, and across; both inside our office and with our customers.”
Jesus never deviated from his mission.
“Jesus never deviated from his mission. We fully embrace our mission, vision and our values and we try our best to live them in all that we do. We don’t compromise our values in our work, and when we’ve been asked (and we have been asked, believe me) I’ve smiled and said to a client the words that Jesus has spoken to me so many times: ‘Come back when you’re ready.’”
“Jesus avoided ‘energy leaks’.”
“Jesus avoided ‘energy leaks’. He didn’t waste time, he didn’t gossip and he didn’t condemn others. Even in that final moment on the cross – when I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have asked God to forgive anyone – Jesus didn’t invest an ounce of negative energy into lashing out at those who were lashing him. Jesus said many times that he did not come here to condemn us … he came to help. We’ve used those exact same words with our clients when confronting their lack of cohesion on their work teams and pointing out the destructive behaviors that are eroding trust in their company. So we plug energy leaks in our company by focusing on our work, not talking about people who aren’t in the room, and we don’t judge people or behaviors just because we don’t understand them. And we try to teach other organizations to do the same.”
While today David is thrilled and grateful to be following the call of his Savior, it wasn’t always that way. Like many, David considered himself a Christian for most of his life. But, he confesses, “I didn’t walk my talk.” He explains, “I always went to church as a boy, I was baptized, I believed in God and I used to read the Bible all the time. I’d experienced a lot of adversity in my younger years and I thought I’d been granted grace because I deserved it, with all the challenges I’d overcome in a very dysfunctional household growing up. I checked what I thought were all the right boxes and called myself a ‘Christian.’”
“Then my Dad died when I was twelve and I (quite literally) cursed God, and his very existence. I proceeded to live my life hell bent on proving through my own actions that God did not exist.”
“I’d been holding onto my way of living – in fear, not in faith; and in cleverly-disguised anger more than unbridled joy.”
However, through his daughter Lauren, David recently found his way through the doors at Crossbridge. During the sermon he realized that he had never truly given his life over to Jesus Christ. “I’d been holding onto my way of living – in fear, not in faith; and in cleverly-disguised anger more than unbridled joy. I left there a few months ago and wept in my bedroom when I got home. I realized that God had been with me all this time, and it was me that had moved, not Him.”
Today, David is committed to modeling his leadership after Jesus—in both big and small ways. For instance, he keeps a flower vase on a bookcase in his office, and any time he or another employee complains, condemns, or criticizes, they place a dollar in the vase. At the end of every month they donate the money to the Victim’s & Services Center of Miami. This practice has served as an effective reminder to everyone to communicate positively and constructively. David suggests that other organizations consider a similar approach: “Try it – you’ll probably write one big check the first month and then you’ll get frugal, with your words and your money, pretty darn quick!”
“But the gospel has taught me that Jesus saw everyone and everything in this world as full of positive potential.”
David’s understanding of the gospel has dramatically changed his view of the world and inspired him and his colleagues to embark on an ambitious mission: “We want to change the world. I know how that sounds and I’ve gotten all the looks you can imagine when I say that. I say it humbly though, and with a clear understanding of all my own weaknesses and faults and frailties that go along with that awareness. But the gospel has taught me that Jesus saw everyone and everything in this world as full of positive potential. We work in an office where limitations and weakness don’t distract us; we always see infinite possibilities. I ask questions of our staff (and myself) every Monday morning in our roundtable meeting; caring confrontations like: ‘How can I be more, better, or different today?’; and ‘How active and creative can we be this week?’, and ‘Are we being sponges – just reacting and taking things in – or can we do better right now to proactively do new things and stretch ourselves and our clients more?’”
Whether it is coaching a business executive one-on-one, delivering a seminar, or leading meetings with his employees, David does his best to follow the example Jesus set. This isn’t always easy—the corporate world is always fast-paced and there is often tremendous pressure to boost the bottom line, no matter what it takes. But we serve a God who sacrificed everything on our behalf—and as David sees it, the least he can do is to try his best to follow his Savior wherever he may lead.