Next Generation Leaders

Zac and Cooper

How is leadership defined? Are true leaders born or made? What characterizes leadership success? Leadership is a major buzzword today and the topic of much interest and discussion among the emerging generation.

A native of Branson, Missouri, Zac Funderburk grew in his passion for leadership as an undergraduate student at DBU. His first thought like so many others was to consult all the best-published resources on the subject available. In a meeting with DBU President Dr. Adam Wright, however, a question posed back to him profoundly changed the trajectory of his thought process. The President said, "Zac, you study a lot of great leadership books and resources, but I would challenge you to study great leaders."

Not long after, while serving as an office assistant to Dr. Gary Cook, DBU's Chancellor, Zac was challenged with the famous quote by Winston Churchill, "To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour."

It was at that moment, says Zac, that he realized God was preparing to use his passion for leadership for something greater and he needed to be ready. In March of 2019, he brought the idea for a podcast that would engage great leaders today to his friend, Cooper McCullough.

The Next Generation Leader podcast has since covered a wide range of topics that fall under the umbrella of "leadership," from how to maximize dead space in your life, information as power, highly effective teams, finding your identity, overcoming anxiety, personality tests, and so much more. "We want to learn from the successes and mistakes of those who have gone before us because that is what 'great' leaders do," he explains.

Some notable leaders already featured as guests on the program include: Clint Bruce (former Navy SEAL and NFL football player), Senator James Lankford (Republican Senator from Oklahoma), Jeremie Kubicek (CEO of GIANT Worldwide and best-selling author), Costi Hinn (Featured in American Gospel and author of God, Greed and the American Gospel), Hunter Mobley (Enneagram Expert), Chad Hennings (3x Super Bowl Champion and Air Force Pilot), and Mike Wilson (Editor of the Dallas Morning News).

"Throughout all of these interviews we have gained little nuggets that make up our working definition of leadership," Zac reflects. "We have learned from Dr. Nick Pitts that leadership is a process and those great leaders are lifelong learners. They seek mistakes as opportunities to grow and learn. We have learned from Chad Hennings that excellence is not a destination, it is an identity. Leaders pursue it with the utmost integrity. We have learned from Diedra Romero and Marvin Daniels that leadership is about people. If you are transparent with them and you serve them, that will enhance their performance and energy more than anything else. And we have learned from Kyle Simms that leaders create and cultivate great teams that have a common goal or mission."

Synthesizing this accumulated wisdom, Zac and Cooper define leadership as, "The process by which someone, on the pursuit of excellence, enhances the performance and energy of everyone around them in order to achieve a common goal."

What advice would Zac and Cooper give to the next generation of leaders behind them in college? "Do not waste your college years! This is a unique time that God has given you to prepare for what he has planned for you. What a tragedy if you are tapped on the shoulder by opportunity and you are not prepared. Use this time to learn, grow, and deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ. Lean into the godly men and women that are around you and glean from how they have succeeded and failed. Learn from their scars. Don't waste this season of preparation ... and get ready!"

Zac is currently finishing his degree in Christian Leadership at DBU, and Cooper is graduating with his undergraduate diploma in Biblical Studies. They are both active members of Watermark Community Church.

Written by Dr. Michael Whiting

Dr. Michael Whiting is the Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.

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