Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 165: The Key to Inspirational Leadership

Welcome to the 165th episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

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You can read the full transcription of this episode below.


Roman Archer: Welcome to another episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast.

Joshua Gagnon: What number is this?

R: This is number one hundred and sixty seven.

J: Do you know what number it is?

R: No idea. I mean it also depends on when this airs.

J: That’s true.

R: So it could just totally change. But I am pretty sure that we are north of 150. If Daniel, are we? At the time of this recording, are we north of 150?

Daniel King: I think...

R: We have Daniel here, who’s listening. He’ll tell us.

D: This will be 165.

J: Wow! What did you say the first time?

R: 167!

J:  Wow.

R And that was literally a total guess.

D: That’s incredible.

R: I was just making up a number. Did I nail that? You know what we should do… Yes, this now needs to be 167. I was going to figure out something else.

J: I respect that, good job.

R: I mean, that’s a milestone. 167.

J: I guess.

R: Like, how many weeks is that? 167. But I mean…

J: We have to move forward.

R: That’s three years worth of podcasts. Like two years is 104?

J: The first year we had a combined listening total of 10 people. The year two we had a combined total listening of 100 people. And this year we have a combined total listening of several hundred thousand.

R: Yep. Certainly been a fun ride. So, welcome to this episode and gonna have a conversation on...leadership!

J: Bum, bum, bum. Isn’t leadership kind of a dead word, almost? It’s almost like the word “love”.

R: Oh yeah, it has so many different meanings.

J: Can you really write another book with the title on the front being anything leadership?

R: No.

J: It’s like vision. Or remember when mission statements were huge for the church? And everybody’s writing them down and putting them on walls? Unless you have a mission statement, unless you have a vision statement, which, by the way, is there really a difference?

R: I was always super confused with that.

J: You know what I mean? Is it? So that’s kind of an interesting thing. But leadership became this hot topic for the church.

R: It’s like the junk drawer.

J: It’s almost like we’ve led so bad for so long that everybody was just glued to the thought of anything leadership. So, yeah. It’s a conversation on leadership, I guess. But maybe it’s just a conversation on life.

R: So we could change the name of this podcast to the Joshua Gagnon Life Podcast?

J: First of all, let’s get rid of my name. Let’s just call it “Us”.

R: The Us Podcast?

J: Just doing life together.

R: The Life Podcast.

J: Alright what do you want to talk about, homie?

R: We’re going to talk about inspiration.

J: Inspire me.

R: Inspire. We could just literally pick a word and then just talk about those words and today’s word be inspiration.

J: I like that.

R: Talk about inspiring. We were just having a little off-subject conversation a second ago about the leaders that inspire us the most. And some of those common denominators. And there really is a wide range of people that can inspire you.

J: Personalities.

R: Yeah. I think, at least for me, I typically, when I think of an inspiring leader, my mind goes to those who were great communicators. Like bold and energetic and they could rally a crowd.

J: Like who?

R: Like Martin Luther King.

J: That’s exactly who I was thinking about.

R: Yeah.

J: Who has the best quote of all time?

R: I mean, that’s tough.

J: It’s him.

R: You think so? What quote would you give him? Jesus had some hum diggers, let’s be real.

J: Yeah, I mean he definitely dropped the mic. Alright, we’ll give it to Jesus cause I have to.

R: Yeah, close second.

J: I’ll give a close second to Martin Luther, man. That quote I love where he says, what does he say? It’s so good, I remember it. But he says, “It’s not the…” and I’m paragraphasing, “It’s not the noise of your enemies that will bother you most, it’s the silence of your friends.” I mean, golly! And the “I had a dream” thing, I mean come on.

R: Well and I think that is kind of the essence of what we think of what we think of...

J: I get inspired when I hear that.

R: Yep, inspiration.

J: So I think that’s our thinking when it comes to inspiration. That in order to be an inspirational leader, you have to be someone who can do a pep rally. You have to be the person who can lead the pep rally or lead the team huddle with everybody clapping and sharing. You have to be the player inside of the huddle that does the whole Ray Lewis, for our football fans, who gets in the middle of the huddles: “We’re going to win!” And it fires everybody up. Would you say I lead like that? How would you say I lead when it comes to inspiration?

R: I would say that you’re probably more like that, at least in your communication style. It’s that you can walk away and people will be very motivated, although we were just talking about that, one thing that came into my mind that we didn’t really talk about before, is he probably, and you as well, any great leader that’s inspiring.

J: When you say he, who’s he?

R: Martin Luther King. But I think it’s really the cause. You have to go to the cause, right? Would he be as inspiring or even as inspired himself if he didn’t have the cause for which he was fighting for?

J: And so inspiration is really born out of the belief of the person you’re listening to and the belief that they believe what it is they’re saying.

R: Exactly.

J It’s almost like when we have teams, church teams, we want our our teams or our coordinators or leaders or staff to be inspiring and that’s that whole thing of hiring people that are passionate about the vision of the house. Because unless they’re truly passionate about the vision, then they’re just going to be repeating what it is you’ve told them to say.

R: Regurgitating.

J: Yeah, but nothing really comes out of that passion, cause it’s not something they own and personally attached to. And so it’s like, making sure we hire people that are passionate about what it is we’re doing and not just fulfilling tasks because they’re part of an organization that has a to do list.

R: Yep, and I think that even speaks to the idea of authenticity. Because if they’re not authentic, if you don’t really feel like this person believes in the cause, how many times have we listened to a communicator, someone giving announcements or someone trying to rally someone or a commercial or something and you just get that nasty feeling like you’re being sold something? This isn’t actually something they can believe.

J: Do you remember, we’re not going to talk about a name, but do you remember when we put on a conference and there was somebody who got up to do an announcement and their legs were shaking nonstop, and do you remember that was not inspiring?

R: No.

J: And it was because he was there as a person who was sponsoring it, so the company sent him there to represent the company, but he was really just fulfilling a task.

R: It was a job.

J: He was up there just saying what he had to say, but his knees were knocking, he was super confused and he was just trying to sell a product that he had a job to sell, but not that he had a belief in. And I think that’s this tie in with I have to believe what it is I’m selling in order for it to come across more than a gimmick sales pitch, and it comes across as something that I believe personally will change your life and it’s in those moments, right? That it’s inspirational. That’s why there’s so many testimonies on weight loss programs, you know? Someone gets on there crying, they’re like, “When I started rolling across the room on that ball, you know, it changed my life,” and you’re kind of like, oh, maybe it can change mine. But they get on there and they’re like “the ball supposedly changes lives.” And you’re like, what is this, a clown?

R: Absolutely. There’s this element of story. I also think about all of the things we manufacture energy for just because we feel like we should believe in this thing. And so we get up there, and how many things over the years has there even been where we manufacture the energy and with that comes across, certainly that’s not as inspirational as…

J: Yeah, we’ve even tried raising money several times for things at Next Level, right? And so I know if all of our ministry leaders are listening, for all of them, they’ve tried raising resources and how often when we believe in something deeply, resources follow it. Right? When we believe in something deeply. Now, we don’t ever try to raise money for things we don’t believe in. But when that deep belief is involved, when that core belief, this is the core to who we are? For instance, we just did a Compassion Weekend. We did one several years ago and we just kind of did it cause we believed Compassion was pretty cool, and we wanted to have a partner cause we believe in supporting partners around missions and helping organizations that are furthering the Gospel, and so remember years ago we did a Compassion Weekend, do you remember?

R: Yes.

J: And we got like 14 people to sponsor a kid.

R: It was pathetic.

J: Well, what happened was is you guys went to Haiti.

R: Yeah.

J: And you guys experienced firsthand on a Compassion trip. You experienced it. And I remember you experienced it on a deep level of belief where it convicted you and met you in your core. And then we worked with Compassion for a long time, got our own villages, on and on I could go Our own place for mission trips. We started to really...And then we just did a Compassion Weekend and had 400 and something kids, I forget what the exact number was, but we had a lot of kids sponsored in just one weekend. You know? I can’t remember the total number of dollars but it was a huge amount of dollars.

R: It was over thirteen thousand a month. Fourteen thousand a month.

J: Yeah over fourteen thousand a month in literally one weekend, not even pushing it over the course of time. Which for us, being in the northeast, most of our locations, of course we’re in Florida that’s pretty significant, being in the least charitable part.

R: And I think it goes back to that level of there was a cause and there was a confident belief in that cause. So I think for me…

J: How do we tie this in, cause I think we’re just having a conversation but how do we tie this into a principle that our listeners can take away?

R: Well I think the big question for me that I would have is there really is no leader, very few leaders, that are going to start off whether they’re a church planter, they’re an entrepreneur, they’re stepping into ministry, they’re starting a business, whatever it is, there’s usually a cause and there’s usually a belief, but over time life kicks the crap out of you. And it’s hard to inspire if you’re not inspired yourself. As a church planter ten years into this journey, there have been seasons where you haven’t been that inspired, yet you still have to inspire.

J: Yeah, great leaders are most inspirational when things are least inspiring. Great leaders are most inspirational when things are least inspiring because they recognize if I’m feeling a lack of inspiration, the team is probably feeling that and there’s times when we’re climbing this mountain, the higher up you go the stronger the wind blows and there’s times when you go through transitions or you go through a season where you’re seeing more people leave than come and there’s times when you’re looking at resources and you’re wondering if everybody lost their job or just stopped believing in the foundational principle of tithing? You’re just confused. And it’s in those moments where we feel like we don’t have anything inspirational to say because we were up all night wondering how we can even keep going and then we stand in front of a team and they can feel that, though. The teams can feel that. Then it starts to slither throughout the entire organization and before long you just become this big fat titanic that has no inspiration and you wonder why nobody is excited and it’s simply because it was started by a leader who when things weren’t inspiring, he wasn’t or she wasn’t inspirational.

R: Well I think success for a season can provide the inspiration that is needed.

J: Yeah, results always give us a manufactured amount of inspiration.

R: Yeah, it’s just things are getting done. So say that thing one more time about the leader when it’s easier inspiring.

J: Great leaders are most inspiring when things are least inspiring. When there’s not the natural high, it takes leaders to build that high.

R: Or it’s the hardest when it’s the most needed.

J: Yeah, exactly. And typically, we’re most, we’re best at being inspirational when things are best. But it’s when it’s least needed because the results are providing a level of inspiration through momentum. But it’s when things are worse that we need to be most inspirational because it’s in those moments that that leader’s going to pull a team back to belief in the core of what it is they’re chasing after and what it is the mission is and so.

R: And how true is that not only within leadership but in our marriages, within any circle where we are looked to as the leader, to end those dark moments when we want to retreat the most.

J: When we want to retreat, when we want to sleep, when we don’t feel like we can keep going, it’s so easy for us to take a hall pass in leadership. But it’s in those moments that the team needs us to step up and so I had written down just a few things while we were talking and what inspires people? And I wrote down passion inspires people. You were talking about Martin Luther King, he was passionate because there was a cause that he believed in. I wrote down sacrifice inspires people. So when you’re somebody who can stand up and say, “Listen, when I started Next Level Church ten years ago, I didn’t get paid the first year. $100 a week unless we brought in one thousand dollars a week in giving. That’s the only time I started taking a check.” And people are like, what? Daniel who’s been on the podcast who’s kind of the brains behind this thing, he didn’t get paid for the first two years. Right? You were waiting tables when you first came here, right? So this level of sacrifice, when you hear what people gave up, there’s something about serving in something that was started through sacrifice because if other people believed in that leader and that vision and that cause enough to give up everything for it, then it must be worthy of me at least giving my attention to. So there are moments when sacrifice inspires people. So maybe you’re in a dark season, just go back to that sacrifice. Go back to reminding people the sacrifice that was given in order for this miracle to have begun.

R: I think often times the sacrifice is often married to faith, if they’re making a sacrifice, there’s this idea there that they have faith that it’s worth it. And I think that’s really what this sacrifice speaks to. You had faith, the reason why you were stepping away from your work is that it’s worth it. And I think that’s what inspires, is that faith that’s married to that sacrifice.

J: So when things aren’t feeling too inspirational or when you don’t feel so inspired, passion, remind them of sacrifice, a clear direction, I wrote down. A clear direction. If  we come into a room and things are going south, things are sour, and we step into this room and I look at you as the leader, or you look at your team, and we’re like, okay, I don’t know what we’re going to do. It’s like, oh boy. But if you come in and you’re like, listen. There’s going to be moments like this but here’s the next step, here’s the next playlist, go out and get a win.

R: Yep, the confidence in that clear direction.

J: Clear direction’s going to inspire people to keep moving forward. Solving a problem like you just said, a cause. So for us we’re solving the problem at our locations of people that don’t know Jesus in our area, we’re trying to chip away at that problem. And so people are giving themselves to a greater cause to something bigger than themselves. Reminding people of the why. Stories of the past, I think are inspirational. Here’s what God has done and we’re believing this is what He’s going to do, so maybe you don’t have the feeling right now to chant and roar like Ray Lewis, a football player for all of the listeners who don’t know who Ray is, and cheer people on in a passionate way, but you can get in a room and you can talk about Sally who didn’t know Jesus, who walked into a location, was broken, and God found her and god healed her because of this ministry, it’s because of these hands, it’s because of this group of people. And you don’t have to say that fired up, you can just say that with honesty and authenticity and people are going to be inspired through Sarah’s story, keep moving forward even if we haven't seen a lot of Sarahs lately.

R: Absolutely. Stories are so inspirational.

J: And then celebration, I guess that’s the same thing. Those are some things I wrote down as we were talking.

R: So real quick, as we get ready to close, give me the, not even the top three cause we’re abnormal, so let’s just do top two ways that you stay inspired as a leader cause there’s been seasons when you haven’t been inspired and usually, you know, speed of leader, speed of team, if you’re not inspired, most likely those around you are beginning to feel it and again that’s when you need to step up the most.

J: I think we’re going to do a podcast on one of them, so…

R: Well go ahead and tease it.

J: Tease it?

R: Tease it out, don’t give away the goals.

J: My thoughts. Taking captive my thoughts.

R: To stay inspired?

J: Um, yes. I can sometimes allow wrong thoughts to come into my mind that ruin the inspiration within me. And so taking my thoughts captive and having a healthy perspective causes me to continue to feel inspired about the future.

R: That's good.

J: What else inspires me? I think moments with just people who are further along, sitting down with my mentor, Pastor Gordon MacDonald, who’s done wonderful things. He’s 78 and I’m hiking the Swiss Alps with him here in June, and just hanging out with this dude who, he’s not trying to build no platform, which we’re going to talk about that too, I think, on another episode. I’m not going to tease them all, but just the filthiness of platforms in today’s day and age, it’s just, potentially in many ways, Satanic. Daniel’s laughing. Do you disagree?

D: I mean, Satanic’s a pretty aggressive word.

R: Daniel’s the biggest platform builder.

J: Why not? You don’t think.. Satanic is Satan using anything to destroy…

D: Yes, that is a true statement. I agree Satan is using that to destroy.

J: So, is it or is it not?

D: I just pictured, when you said Satanic, I just picture the symbol… people walking around on their foreheads.

J: Well, guess what, we’re going to talk about it. So I think hanging out with people. And then just, you know, I have to inspire myself a little bit. I get off the couch and look at what God’s done and the fastest way to get inspired about the future is for me to remember what God has done. The other thing I’ll say is I don’t deserve any of this. So when I take away entitlement, I feel pretty inspired. But we’re going to talk about that in another episode.

R: Well, there you go. We’ve teased a couple.

J: Hey, it’s been fun talking about the one word of inspiration on our one hundred and sixty fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth…

R: Somewhere in there. It’s close.

J: I’d love to hear what our listeners are feeling, thinking, going through, reach out to us, leadbetter.church is where you can send in an email, send in a thought, send in a need if you have a need that our staff can help you with, anything we can do, we’re in this to win together, trust me, we’re making it up as we go. We’re putting the second wing on the plane right now but we’re mid-flight. We’re making it up as we go. So thankful that you listen and have a great rest of your week.