Former LensCrafters CEO Dave Browne visited the University last week to meet with Dr. Sam Voorhies, director of the Center for Biblical Leadership, and discuss the center’s future programming.
Browne described himself as a Sunday Christian until he had a “come to Jesus” moment halfway through his career. He went to church on Sundays and tried to be a good husband and father. He met performance goals at LensCrafters, but he and his employees were miserable because of a ruthless get-it-done mentality.
“Mine was very much a conflict of two lives,” Browne said. “For me, it had been all about the metrics. We were getting all the accolades in the world.”
He was at a Christian retreat, where he struggled to stay alert for the speaker. He took a walk in the woods, fell asleep and woke up to his Bible open to Luke 7. He read the passage in which Jesus heals people of all their diseases and gives sight to the blind.
Browne had an epiphany. He pivoted to servant leadership. He was inspired to start a new initiative at LensCrafters. The more that employees at a particular store sold, the more they got to give away to the needy in the U.S. and around the world. Sales took off. Fortune magazine repeatedly named LensCrafters one of the 100 best companies to work in America.
Employees who were Christ-followers recognized exactly what — or who — was behind the change. Those who weren’t Christians were attracted to it.
“It was all God’s orchestration,” Browne said. “If the idea is to attract people to the light, you don’t want to blind them.”
Voorhies said Browne modeled what the Center is striving for — the integration of good theology, personal spiritual formation and professional competence.
“It’s about character and competence,” Voorhies said. “He did it in a publicly-traded company with performance-based metrics.”
The Center for Biblical Leadership is the University’s sixth Center of Excellence. It will equip marketplace leaders as well as University students, faculty and staff to apply spiritual formation and biblical knowledge to their practice of leadership.
The Brownes toured campus and discussed ways that Dave Browne may contribute his talents to the Center in the future, such as through Lifework Leadership Program where he and Voorhies met.
Dave and Debbie Browne, of the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, were in South Florida for the Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast, where 60 PBA students volunteered in a variety of capacities.