The Life-Giving Leader: Learning to Lead From Your Truest Self
:The president of Catalyst Leader believes that the most impactful and most influential leaders are the ones who lead from who they truly are, not who they pretend or wish to be. With clear biblical teaching and personal...
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:The president of Catalyst Leader believes that the most impactful and most influential leaders are the ones who lead from who they truly are, not who they pretend or wish to be.
With clear biblical teaching and personal accounts, Tyler Reagin not only demonstrates the necessity of life-giving leadership, but also provides the steps you'll need to begin knowing and leading from your truest self. From his experiences in high-impact leadership roles at some of our nation's largest churches and ministries, Reagin has learned firsthand the importance of identity-based leadership. His desire is to help each reader become an empowered, confident leader that brings life and vibrancy to every room they enter. Whether you've got the corner office or you're just getting started, Reagin gives you the tools you need to become an impactful and unique influencer right where you are!
TYLER REAGIN is the president of Catalyst, a leadership development organization that exists to unify and equip leaders who love the Church through resources and experiential events. Through live events, weekly podcast, digital resources and a community-building app, the Catalyst team connects with over 100,000 leaders from around the world. Prior to Catalyst, Reagin served for seven years under the leadership of Andy Stanley as the Service Programming Director with North Point Ministries. He received his Masters of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and serves as a leadership coach for teams and organizations. He's been married to Carrie for over 16 years and has two boys Nate and Charlie. When he's not working, Tyler is hanging out with his friends and family on the golf course.
Chapter 1: It’s Just Your Personality
“If you are not successful, it’s probably just your personality.”
I’ve actually been told this twice in my life. Once by a leader and another time by a friend—people I trusted. Even though the words pierced my heart, they later turned out to be a gift. But in those moments I was really hurt.
The second time was definitely painful, but it was also profound. I now know that the most important leadership moment for me was also my most difficult. It felt like failure, but God used it to change my leadership and me forever. And I hope, because of that pivotal moment, He has changed many other leaders through my leadership.
I wonder if the people who said these words even remember the situation. I still believe they were trying to be helpful, and the message they delivered was helpful. Just not in the way they intended.
I had two thoughts when I heard the words.
First, I thought about a couple of people who were wired as I was and who had been very successful.
Second, and this was the game changer—if what was said about me was true, then the Lord of the universe, who created me and my unique personality, must have made a mistake. He must have misunderstood what I needed to be a great leader. He failed to hand me the tools I needed to be successful. A personality that wouldn’t allow me to have a full life. The lesson I received from these two individuals was that my personality was going to set me up for floundering and not flourishing, for failure and not success.
But Psalm 139 makes me believe differently:
You formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are you works;
my soul knows it very well. (verses 13–14)
If we believe Scripture to be true, then how could we conclude that God, who made us, does not have a plan for the uniqueness He knitted into every one of us? The simple truth is that God gave each of us a distinct personality and wired every person for a specific purpose. (As we delve more deeply into life-giving leadership, we will explore this passage as the basis on which to build our leadership.)
The light came on for me in the midst of a dark time, and I have spent the past decade trying to call out this truth in the lives of leaders. When the light clicks for people and they begin to become life-giving leaders by leading from their truest selves, their leadership explodes.
Unfortunately, we have all seen leaders take too long to grasp this principle. Because of their poor leadership, they lose valuable team members. Striving to understand your uniqueness and building confidence in your calling will last a lifetime. But the time to begin is now.
How Leadership and Faith Collide
I don’t know anyone who walked away from his or her faith because of Jesus, but I know many who walked away because of the poor leadership of those who represent Jesus.
All of us are familiar with stories of Christian leaders who, because of self-centered decisions, have had moral failures involving finances, sex, or a multitude of other issues. And how about leaders who burn through staff members at a staggering rate, all in the pursuit of the mission? These leaders see their staff members as recruits—people who will do everything necessary to ensure their leaders achieve their desired level of recognition and honor.
What about leaders who choose to accept all the accolades for their team’s hard work? When Christian leaders operate in a posture that benefits only them and not the people around them, it can inhibit and damage the faith of other people. We know the drill: our faith should be strong enough to survive the damage caused by another person’s failures. That’s easy to say, but it doesn’t prevent bad leadership from driving people away from Jesus.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a pastor or a librarian. If you are a follower of Jesus, I want you to feel the weight of this. We have probably all known someone who has walked away from faith because of another Christian’s poor leadership. We must fight for our leadership to avoid this consequence.
I have dedicated myself to bringing hope to churches, organizations, nonprofits, and businesses. Christian leaders should be the best leaders in the world because we have the best Leader in history teaching us. We have the Creator infusing creativity into us. We have the Holy Spirit guiding us and giving us wisdom.
Great leadership demands that we stay in step with the Spirit. We need to learn the ways of life-giving leadership because it brings out the best in those around us as we lead from our truest selves. Look around. It’s not hard to see the need for bringing life to others. You can do this only when you lead from your truest self, from your design. God created you for a purpose, which is to lead and to lead well.
Life-giving leaders carry the name of Jesus throughout communities and to the person standing next to them. They live out their calling with fulfillment and joy. They live to the fullest, just as Jesus implores us in John 10:10.
How we lead affects people’s lives and their faith. That’s a short sentence with an eternal impact. The weight of our leadership rests on our shoulders, and we need to carry it well. This is why I refer to the leadership that God calls us to as “life-giving.” Here’s what I mean.
Grace should flow from leaders to those around them. The most common type of leadership, however, is just the opposite. How many people have you worked for who required grace from their team members? Perhaps the leader was constantly late. Or maybe the leader lacked integrity, held unrealistic expectations, was an ineffective communicator, or was morally corrupt. We’ve all been there and never want to go back. Constantly having to give life and grace to those who lead you is exhausting. In contrast, wouldn’t it be amazing to work for a leader who gives you life?
The best leader is one who continually extends grace rather than requiring it from others. The flow of grace is critical to the leader’s ability to grow in influence. When leaders require grace to flow to them, the system is corrupt. It’s backward. (Granted, as believers we are called to show grace and mercy to everyone, including bosses.)
Life-giving leadership flips the common scenario on its end. Life-giving leaders spread life, grace, hope, joy, and positivity like wildfire. The flow is consistent and contagious.
Rivers don’t change direction because of a bad day. Unless something blocks the river, it will always flow in the same direction. Leaders who consistently change the flow of grace will lose influence.
When Life Flows, Influence Grows
The Colorado River, which created the Grand Canyon, is one of the most magnificent and powerful bodies of water in the United States. The Colorado, however, starts as a stream that you can straddle. La Poudre Pass is the simple beginning of this river whose beauty is known worldwide. If the Colorado River were to remain the size of where it begins its course, it would hardly make an impact. However, rivers grow as other streams join the flow. What starts small, barely attracting notice, can turn into one of the most powerful forces humanity has experienced.
Life-giving leadership can do the same. When leaders steward the small amount of influence they have in a God-honoring, life-giving way, it is no surprise when they are handed more influence and more opportunities to bring hope to others. Everyone has influence over someone. Great leadership involves stewarding or managing that influence over others to the best of our ability.
The world needs more life-giving leadership. Statistics indicate that more than 65 percent of working adults would choose a new boss over a pay increase. Governments and politicians have lost influence, and the level of trust we place in other people tends to be lower now than in the past. The greatest management theories of our time are based on mistrust rather than trust. The path of mistrust leads to protecting investments, not pursuing greatness.
Many people would say the workplace is not a place where life is given but instead a place where life is taken. Management steals the joy from work and from workers. Team members live on their heels, constantly insecure because their leaders are managing them poorly.
I know this sounds bleak. It is bleak. But life-giving leadership changes the game. It brings color to monotone organizations. It manifests light in dark places. It restores joy where joy has been lost. It pushes people to be their best. Who doesn’t want to be known as a leader who does that?
Welcome to the lifelong pursuit of being a life-giving leader. You never arrive, but you get closer to the goal. Jack Nicklaus never stopped trying to improve his golf swing, even though he is considered the best of all time. Pablo Picasso never stopped trying to create his best masterpiece. William Shakespeare did not stop honing his craft after writing Romeo and Juliet.
Life-giving leaders will keep pursuing a better version of their leadership for the rest of their days. And trust me, it’s worth every minute. If I were to ask people about the life-giving leaders they work with, I’m confident that they would say they are thankful for their leaders never quitting the race.
Writing this book was one aspect of my attempt to get better. I want to show others why life-giving leadership matters in this world that needs it so desperately. We are called to live a life worthy of the cross, to be salt and light in the world. We are commissioned to share the good news of Jesus with others, people in our offices and elsewhere. Evangelism is more than the words we say; it’s the lives we live. We communicate the power of the Holy Spirit by the way He shows up in our day-to-day lives and in our leadership.
It is difficult to grasp the extent of the positive impact that life-giving leaders have on people. Better performance and a more productive work environment are a given, but the full extent of our impact comes about because we are called to live no other way.
What Type of Leaders Can Be Life Givers?
I have been asked if these principles apply only to leaders who call themselves Christian. The answer? The process of discovering your unique identity can apply to any leader. The truth that life-giving leaders bring life to those around them is applicable to everyone.
When I was in high school, I developed a relationship with Jesus. This was not merely attending church or acting religious or pretending to go along with the faith of my family; it was a true relationship with Christ. From that day on, I have pursued Him. As a teenager, I learned that two thousand years earlier Jesus died for me and my sins, He was resurrected from the dead, and He then offered me life. It was the most life-giving act the world has seen, and the world was never the same and I will never be the same.
This is 100 percent a Christian leadership book. I can’t write about life-giving leadership without putting Jesus at the center of the conversation. He’s the reason I can attempt to lead others to be their best. He’s the reason I look my weaknesses square in the face and strive to improve. He’s the reason I see every person on my team as a life-breathed version of our heavenly Father. Life-giving leadership is always filled with hope. So is Jesus. So is the gospel.
Leadership should be a radical reflection of the life that flows from God to us and then overflows from us to those around us. In keeping with that, you’ll notice that this book is divided into four parts.
In this introductory section, we’ll look at the calling of leadership on the lives of those who want to lead well. Why does leadership matter? What does great leadership look like? How does life-giving leadership change the game? And how will placing the principles of Jesus at the center of our leadership change the world? You will see that this divine directive is for you.
Part 1 dives deeply into how you matter in your leadership. The manner in which you lead comes from who you are. This section helps you look closely at your unique personality and leadership skills. You will see that God has wired you for your calling.
Part 2 might be the most difficult for some readers, and yet it is the most important section of this book. We cannot be the life-giving leaders God is calling us to be without learning and leading from our truest selves. We have to learn how to release the life givers within us. Have you ever met a great leader who was acting like someone they are not? This section will help you avoid the pitfalls of chasing other people’s uniqueness and, instead, lead from your own strengths.
Part 3 shows practical ways that life-giving leaders lead daily. You will see why I believe the four S’s of leadership can serve as the basis for a lifetime of God-honoring leadership.
Finally, in Part 4, you will learn how life-giving leaders change, and have an impact on, the businesses, churches, schools, and nonprofits they work for.
I pray that grace and life will flow from me to you and from God to you. I pray that you will see how life can flow from you and from your leadership.
When life flows, your influence grows. It’s as simple as that, and yet it’s never easy.