Insider Influence: Episode 7 with John Sampson

John Sampson wakes up between 4:30 and 5 a.m. each morning like clockwork without the need for an alarm. He starts his day at the Y with a 45-minute workout, follows that up with 30 minutes of devotions, and gets breakfast before arriving at the office by 8 o’clock. Standing staff meeting is at 8:45 a.m. and, once 9 a.m. hits, it’s go time.

Brandon Noll
Business Development Manager

Crafting a Partnership

Our original plan for this interview was to have an early morning phone call while John was en route to my hometown of Angola to meet with Angola’s economic development team—however, after a couple of dropped calls, John said, “Brandon, this topic is too important and needs our attention. Please come to my office at 5 p.m. if you can fit it into your schedule.” We were on the same page as to the importance of the interview and I took the chance to visit his office at 5.

John Sampson leads the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, an organization whose mission is to build, market, and sell northeast Indiana. John is a graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and was a licensed reactor operator for nuclear power plants. He was tasked with starting the Regional Partnership nearly 12 years ago. Building a team, creating a movement, and developing a region doesn’t happen overnight, but John has made exceptional strides and isn’t finished yet.

I’d met John a few times in passing, but had not yet had the honor of sitting down and getting to know him. After arriving at the Regional Partnership office, John was waiting at the door to greet me and we made our way back to NEIRP’s immaculate conference room to have our meeting. That meeting spun into a two-hour conversation that left me inspired and excited to make a difference in my community.


Parts of a Whole

John and I spent the first half of our meeting talking about our lives and how our paths converged to have this conversation—we found that we’ve both had similar moments that have helped guide where we’ve gone in life.

Leadership is making personal sacrifices for your team and expecting nothing in return.

John learned the value and importance of selfless leadership from his mentors, his father, and a couple of his leaders in the Navy. “One chief engineer taught me that when you get publicly challenged or you call someone out, find a private time to resolve it. Publicly praise, privately correct.”

As the Regional Partnership took root, talent selection and core values were paramount. John notes multiple Patrick Lencioni books were foundational in crafting the culture and core elements of NEIRP. “Selection of team members and the values leaders instill by deliberate action or by what we allow are two of the most important decisions I make as a leader,” John explained. “Every one of our team members has a critical role to play in the success of our organization.”


Paying it Forward

As with each of the Insider Influence series installments, I was curious as to what characteristics John believes every leader should possess. His answer? “Servant leadership. Leadership carries both a privilege and an obligation. You can delegate responsibility, but not accountability,” he explained.

John drove his point home by showing me the Regional Partnership organization chart flipped, putting him at the bottom of the hierarchy and the rest of the team at the top. “By flipping the organization chart, you give employees empowerment and motivation,” he elaborated. “It’s great to be a leader, but if you have no followers, what’s the point?”

Creating a place that employees want to be and engaging young people as they enter the workforce are what John believes to be two of the greatest challenges leaders face in today’s world. As our meeting came to a close, I left with a sense of genuine appreciation for John and the leaders who have taken the time to meet with me for Insider Influence thus far. What this series has become is a true testament to the leadership in northeast Indiana.

Many people have taken the time for me – I am merely paying it forward. I hope you do the same someday.

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