Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 161: Forward Thinking Leaders

Welcome to the 161st episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

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You can read the full transcription of this episode below.

Hello this is Joshua Gagnon, thanks so much for listening to the podcast. Man, I am so honored by what God is doing through this podcast. We meet people all across the country who listen to the podcast and I never would have imagined. You know, sometimes I say that and I kind of imagined it. You know there are things in life I am blown away by, kind of, but I kind of expected it. This podcast is one of those things that i just never, ever, ever expected it. And even as much just a year into it, it was doing wonderful, but not phenomenal. And over the last six months, it has just literally blow up to tens of thousands of unique listeners every single month. So thank you so much for listening and hanging out. It is my desperate prayer that God would use this podcast to bless you in some way every single week. I have the honor of hosting a coaching network that we are doing. It’s the first time we have done one, I have fought against doing one for a long time, but I do feel like we can add a lot of value to many people in ministry. So if you are a senior leader, and you listen to this podcast, or if you are a senior leader and you don’t listen to the podcast, I would love to hang out with you for a few months. We are going to invite some of our executive team members, Carey Nieuwhof is going to join us for a week. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I believe God is going to use it in great ways. So you can go to and you can learn all the information there. It would be an honor to hang out, we’re going to be innovative. It’s not going to be a typical coaching network, it’s going to be as authentic as it possibly can be. And I hope that we all, including myself, leave the conversations just feeling better. We’re going to grow together, learn together, love one another, and we’ll see where God takes it. And so, I’d love for you to check that out, and if not, I still love you and I hope you enjoy today’s episode.

Roman Archer: Well welcome to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in today. I wanna thank all of our listeners and those of you that are continuing to share our podcast.

Joshua Gagnon: Somebody share something

R: Somebody sharing something because we are seeing the uptake in you guys’s sharing of the podcast. We are super thankful for that and excited to see our listeners continuing to grow. Another record month and that’s exciting. Because ultimately our heart is that you are growing in your leadership and we have had so many people invest in us in our leadership that we have been able to learn from and so thankful to be able to pay it forward.

J: Yeah, excited for what we are seeing God do. I want to invite all of you, we are just about ready to close down the coaching network application process. So if you are interested in joining the coaching network I would love for you to sign up. Apply, It’s going to be incredible. We are going to be focused a lot on multi site churches, a lot on staffing. Carey Nieuwhof is going to be joining us for one of the weeks, we are going to be hanging out with him, he’s a good buddy of mine, and who knows what else. There is going to be a lot of fun, I do believe it is going to be valuable. I would not be doing it, wasting my time or anybody else’s time and so, we aren’t going to take many, many, many people the first time. I think over the course of the years, prayerfully we’ll be able able to do more. But, the first one, we are going to keep it um, 6,8, i don't know somewhere around there. We’ve had a lot of applications.

R: Yeah.

J: And thank you guys so much for wanting to support the first coaching network. I do believe it will be a blessing to many people. And let’s dive in to today. What are we talking about today, Romeo?

R: We are talking about something that we have talked about without a microphone in front of us. (Both laugh) And so this time we…

J: I actually already did a little bit of a take on this outside of a movie theater, kinda playing with a new idea of me just pulling out my iPhone, and recording podcast episodes on the spot, raw. I left the movie theater for a minute and just shot something I was thinking of and this was what we kinda shot. I got a little bit of push back.

R: I’m a little upset that we are not using that one. Because personally I felt like that was a cool, behind the scenes look, a different way of doing a podcast.

J: Daniel King, the brains behind the podcast says why in the world when something is growing the way the podcast is growing, would you ever change it. And I said good point but I’m not sure that is always...

R: I guess you could call that creativity, innovation, and forward progression.

J: You’re not bitter?

R: I’m not bitter at all, I am not bitter at all. I thought you did, maybe we will release it as a bonus episode where they can catch the raw side of it. With this conversation here, the two of us.

J: Cool. Let’s unpackage it over a few minutes. Let’s keep the podcast short so that our listeners, if they are running, they have an excuse to stop shorter.

R: Absolutely. So, in a season right now where growing in leadership as we always are, you were encouraging/challenging me with a thought. Actually in your garage, we were getting ready to go somewhere.

J: Garage band.

R: Yeah, and we were meeting and you brought up this idea of two different kinds of leaders and how we’re forced to make decisions.

J: Yeah.

R: Talk a little bit about those two different types of leaders.

J: Well, let me first say that there has been a wonderful ongoing growth in you. And in all of our leaders across our locations and hopefully, prayerfully, in me. Wanting to be leaders that are out front. Not wanting to be leaders that live in panic mode. I think so often we as leaders can live a life as if the building is on fire, and we are just running around in ministry, we are running around in leadership. We are trying to figure out why everything is on fire and why we are smelling so much smoke. Why people are leaving, why giving is dropping, why volunteers aren’t engaged, why groups aren’t functioning like we hoped they would. Like i don’t know about you but so often leadership can become this, what do you call it a rat.. race?

R: Rat race, yeah.

J: A mouse chase.

R: Rat race, mouse chase.

J: A herding cat.

R: Yep.

J: Any other illustrations for animals or examples?

R: No, the only other thing I thought of was the saying that I had heard years ago from Blaine Bartel, is a saying that if you sweat in preparation, you won't bleed in battle. And that.

J: Are you sure that I didn’t say that? (Laughs)

R: It could have been you and maybe Blaine heard it from you. (Laughs)

J: Yeah, I’m so sick of these guys ripping me off.

R: But it’s that idea that on the weekends or even within leadership. The times that we’re running around with our head cut off frantically.

R & J simultaneously: Chicken with the head cut off.

R: That’s where it is. That’s it isn’t it. There’s another one.

J: We finally got to the root

R: It’s usually a sign that we didn’t sweat in preparation therefore we’re bleeding in battle.

J: And a lot of times the reason that we don't sweat in preparation is because we don't want to endure the pain that it takes to sweat.

R: Yeah.

J: I know a lot of times for leaders, I’ll talk to them and I'll say, you know the truth is that you are just trying to avoid pain. And we’ve learned a lot over 10 years of doing ministry, I mean, when you start with absolutely nothing, the only thing you can do is fail or learn. And we have learned a lot. And one of the things we have learned is, you know Craig Groeschel, who we mention all the time, it's hard not to mention those that you are close with, or friends with, or mentored you or just even at a distance some of listeners have been mentored by people. It’s hard not to mention them when they’ve influenced your life. But he would often say something like, “A leader’s greatest companion is pain.” And it’s this willingness to embrace that pain up front that causes you to, to minimize the damage of the pain in the future. Being willing to embrace it. So you and I were talking, and as we are growing as we’re spreading out geographically. We’ve faced, of course, great things, challenges, and I was telling you that you have to be willing to embrace that pain.

R: Yeah.

J: That you can’t continue to wait in certain decisions because ultimately they are causing you more pain than they would have, had you made the decision prior. And it's not because you don't know what decision is probably right. It’s at times you are just not willing to make the decision.

R: Absolutely.

J: Because…

R: Because it’s painful.

J: Yeah, and so I looked at you and I said this, and this is what we’ll kinda talk about it just for a minute. I looked at you and I said, Roman, there’s two types of leaders.

R: Yep.

J: And you looked at me with these eyes of…

R: Hunger

J: Wonder

R: Hungry eyes.

J: You were hungry, you were like man what are you cooking up, Bishop, what are you cooking up?

R sings: Hungry eyes.

J: And in my garage and I said there are leaders that are forward thinking.

R: Yep, out in front.

J: Out in front, there’s forward thinking leaders and number two, the second type of leader is a forced to think leader.

R: Yeah.

J: There’s a forward thinking leader, and a forced to think leader. What are the two types of leaders Roman?

R: Forced to think and forward thinking.

J: Forward thinking and forced to think. Forced to think, forward thinking. I really want our listeners to get this into their minds, their heart into their vocabulary. Because I really do want this one idea can change the way you make decisions. Forward thinking leaders are not forced to think. Forced to think leaders are often not thinking out forward thinking leadership principles. And so, let’s unpack this just a little bit, even though I think the principle in of itself probably has quite a bit of explanation within it. Which one do you want to talk about first?

R: I would say let’s start with the negative one first and what that looks like to tease that out a little bit. The type of leaders that are forced to think. What do you even mean by forced to think. Is there someone that, a boss, that’s forcing them to think?

J: No, uh ya. It would be two types of things, right? It would be they are forced to think because there is somebody that says you need to start thinking about this because their supervisor or the person in front of them that god’s trusted to lead about them, sees all sorts of smoke, all sorts of fires and comes up to them and is like, “Yo, what are you doing?”

R: Yeah, you see this.

J: And in that moment you are forced to think. Because your supervisor, leader, whatever you want to call her, is looking at you and saying you need to start thinking. Other times we are forced to think simply because we finally get ourselves in the situation where there is no alternative other than to think.

R: Call that being in a pickle.

J: Yeah (Both laugh) It’s like, ya, I’m forced to think because the house is on fire.

R: Yeah.

J: Like there’s no escaping it, there’s no pretending it’s not a reality. My peers know it’s a problem. The people around me know its a problem. My boss knows it’s a problem. I know it’s a problem. My kids know it’s a problem. Our pets know it’s a problem. Like everybody around me recognizes that I have not led well in this situation. I haven’t led this person well. I haven’t led this decision well. I haven’t led you name it well. And because I haven’t led it well, I am not forced to think.

R: Yep.

J: Because there is no getting around it.

R: Yep.

J: Everybody know it. Everybody sees it.

R: There’s no more sweeping it under the rug.

J: Right, so there’s there moments of where you could push away the pain, and you could kinda live as if everything was okay. The only one that really knew it was you and maybe the person that wasn’t leading well, or you and whatever it is that your leading wasn’t thriving.

R: Yeah.

J: Not many people knew. And then at some point, you are forced to think because either the leader about you says start thinking or number two, everyone around you starts noticing the problem or even number three, you just start recognizing, this is out of control.

R: Yeah, and if you are the person that is being forced to think, a lot of times, you are dead weight to that team. In the sense that, not making those decisions is evident to those that are around you, and it’s costing the team something, rather than being, what we will talk about next, the forward thinking, which is adding value to the team, you become a detriment. Leadership is not static. It’s increasing or it’s decreasing and when you are a forced to think leader, often times you are playing from behind.

J: Yeah, what are some characteristics of a forced to think leader? I mean I know we are mentioning scenarios but a forced to think leaders probably avoid pain.

R: Yeah.

J: A forced to think leader avoid conflict. I would assume there is..

R: Yeah, there is usually someone or something that they are unwilling to confront.

J: Yep, a forced to think leader, maybe are lazy?

R: Yep.

J: Maybe someone who is lazy and says you know I just don't want to deal with it.

R: Yep, I would say if the same problem keeps repeating itself over and over again. There is a, somewhere, a forced to think leader that’s ignoring the problem that sooner or later that is going to come up and have to be dealt with.

J: Forced to think leaders may not be seeking out wisdom.

R: Yep.

J: Because they are finding themselves forced to have to put out fires rather than out in front of the fire. So the other type of leader is a forward thinking leader which I think really, I mean like I said, this principle kind of unpacks itself but its a podcast so it’s pretty hard to just say “here you go here’s one minute” so you know what I mean? Even though we are gonna keep these short. A forward thinking leader, of course, is out in front of the problem, out in front of decisions, out in front of the fire, out in front of the team, out in front of the decision needing to be made. And they are out front of, kind of preparing the way for the path forward before they are forced to pick a path forward.

R: Yeah, I think kind of a couple attributes of a forward thinking leader, one of the things you have always taught me is margin. A forward thinking leader has margin. I think it's often easy for us to be a forced to think leader, when we have zero margin. We are just reacting to everything. But you have constantly taught us, our directional team, our department directors, that we have gotta create margin to be thinking ahead.

J: And be willing to make decision out front. It’s easy to make a decision when everybody knows the answer.

R: Yeah.

J: But a forward thinking leader often has to make decisions hoping they got it right.

R: Yeah.

J: And the reason, you know, your making the decision out front, hoping you got it right and if you get it right, man, everybody thrives. And a lot of times we don't want to make decisions until we are forced to because we are afraid of getting it wrong. And often forward thinking leaders are making decisions prior to knowing if it’s right or wrong, but of course believe it’s the right decision.

R: So there’s an element of risk taking that a forward thinking leader needs to have.

J: And maybe that comes back to the pain, of the forced to think leader where they don’t want to embrace the pain of maybe getting the decision wrong.

R: Yeah, fear of failure.

J: Yeah, fear of failure. You know the reality is, is forward thinking leaders are often making decisions out front of knowing what’s right and wrong.

R: Yeah, they’re not certain. Still uncertainty in both of these leaders’ minds just more willing to embrace the uncertainty.

J: When you look at a forward thinking leader, of someone who is out front, thinking out front, what comes to mind as far as characteristics, what comes to mind as far as, so for you: you want to be a forward thinking leader. What are the things you need to grow in in order to become one?

R: I see a big one as being a learner. The idea of being a forward thinking leader, you are out in front, which means you have to go, you have to be ahead of where you currently are. That takes discipline. That takes mentors. That takes a discipline or being willing to learn and a certain level of humility. There are some things that we can only learn through experience. But far too many leaders wait until they go through an experience to learn something, when had they not been isolated and humble enough to reach out to people a little bit forward in their own thinking, that they can bring them that much further.

J: One of the ones I see is awareness.

R: Yeah.

J: I think just being aware of your surroundings.

R: Yeah.

J: Knowing where there’s smoke, before anyone else notices there's smoke.

R: Yep.

J: You’re aware of the attitude of that person on the team. You’re aware of the lack of commitment of that person on the team. You’re of the lack of culture in that person. You’re aware of your ministry. Your aware of the lack of culture, the lack of vision, the lack of excitement, you know. You are aware of your surroundings.

R: Yeah.

J: And because you are aware of your surroundings, you are able to say, woah, woah, woah before there is any smoke that starts a fire and you are forced to think.

R: You’re dealing with it.

J: A forward thinker is like, woah, woah, woah before that becomes anything I am going to make sure I do something.

R: Yeah.

J: And I think that is real key on forward thinking leaders. Many leaders are so caught up in building the house, that they have never stepped back and seen the architectural design of it.

R: Yeah.

J: And if you’re not willing to step outside of swinging a hammer and investigate how it’s being built, you might find yourself stuck just making decisions, forced to swing a hammer, versus stepping back and saying woah, this isn’t being built right. I need to change the architecture I need to change the plans in order to get where we hope to be.

R: Yeah.

J: And so, I think it’s being aware of all of your surroundings and having the mission out in front, the vision out in front, and being aware of where it’s not adding, where you’re not aligning and being willing, in every moment to realign out front rather than forced to align. Because whenever you are forced to align culture and vision, whenever you are forced to align those two things, I guarantee the reason you were forced to do it, is because there is a cancer inside.

R: Yeah.

J: Right, there’s a cancer that’s come about. But great leaders are out forward, so there is never a cancer that’s there, there is just simple alignment that’s continuing at all times.

R: Yeah, absolutely. I think that awareness is so key. It’s kinda like a sixth sense.

J: Yeah.

R: You might not actually see dead people but you pick up on some of the things that are around you that some of the other people in the room might not sense.

J: Yeah, so we talked about dead people, pickles, cats,...

J & R: Chickens.

J: We’ve done a lot here.

R: We’ve covered a lot of ground.

J: We’ve covered a lot of ground.

J: Hey leaders, thank you so much for hanging out for just a few minutes with us. I pray that God’s grace continues to overwhelm you, you continue to walk within it. And may I just once again challenge you and those that you lead to be forward thinking leaders. Full of awareness, full of the willingness to embrace pain, full of confidence, full of learning, full of being a part of the things that allow you to be out front. And may you be a forward thinking leader not a forced to think leader. Forward thinking leaders change the world. Forced to think leaders just continue to stay stagnant putting out fires, one at a time. Hope you have amazing week. We'll hang out again next week, if you are willing, I will be here.