Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 167: The Two Constant Companions of Leadership

Welcome to the 167th episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

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You can read the full transcription of this episode below.

Walt Robbins: What’s going on everybody welcome to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast. I have Roman Archer here, who’s having an incredible morning, and Pastor Josh.

Joshua Gagnon: This is Walter Robbins. Well, this isn’t...That was Walt Robbins. If you’ve ever emailed me, you’ve emailed the great Walt Robbins, named after Walt Disney!

W: And my grandfather, but…

Roman Archer: Mainly grandfather and father.

J: Yeah, mainly. He is the third, but somewhere, there was a Walt Disney tie-in. Is he your favorite?

W: Favorite. All-time favorite. In fact I’ve read like, three biographies.

J: There you go. After the name. Well, this is a podcast.

R: This is a podcast.

J: And so we should greet our guests. Why don’t you go ahead and do that, Roman? Which, by the way, to God be the glory, and all of the mysteries under heaven and earth...on the earth…in the earth...another podcast all-time record last week.

R: That’s awesome. That’s awesome.

J: Do you feel excited?

R: I am so excited.

J: You okay?

R: I’m welcoming all of our guests. Wanna welcome them to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast, where we talk to one another about leadership.

J: Kinda strange, right?

R: Yep. Yep. It would be much easier if we were just mic'd up during the week. Kinda like what they do on ESPN, they just mic up the coaches and then they just kind of... I think that would be a very successful podcast.

J: I agree. We also may get a lot of scrutiny. (laughs)

R: Yeah, that too. That too. Well today we’re going to be talking about companions for leadership.

J: Companions. Companionship.

R: Companionship.

J: Yeah, really we were talking about that and how we kind of bring it to life. Roman, you and I were talking about this before the podcast began to record, and we were talking about how my kids got...what did they get?

R: It’s so funny because listeners can’t see you right now but with your hands, you’re trying to describe how big they are, so you’re making a little thing.

J: Hamsters!

R: Hamsters, yes.

J: They got little hamsters. They’ve been begging me and begging me for hamsters. I have an 11 year old and a 10 year old, two boys, and they’ve been begging me for...probably 2 years now. I would say asking for 2 years, they started begging for about 2 months. They want hamsters. They want hamsters. And so they said, “Dad, what if we write a persuasive speech and we convince you?”

R: So it turned into a leadership exposition?

J: Yeah, turned it into an opportunity for growth, and so I had to call the family meeting and they came down with their speeches and they needed to have a business plan, everything in place of how they were going to feed it, who was going to watch them if we left, the cost, they had to give me facts about hamsters, how long they live, how big they get, on and on and on and on, right? So, they came down, we were in our kitchen and they [gave] their speeches, and they actually did really good. I’m not just that proud dad, I’m not just a dad. They did really good. I was actually surprised, I think mom helped them. So I think Jennifer kind of stood aside of them and helped them. But at the end, I was like, alright, let me think it over. You know, I had already known I was going to do it, but I was like let me think it over, I’ll get back to you. I have some questions, so I asked some questions, and I said, I’ll get back to you within the next week, and I kind of made it like professional like I was the judge, and so they were like, okay, okay, they were smiling. So every morning they get up and they kind of look at me, and I told them, don’t be asking, I’ll tell you when the decision has been made. And they look at me with a smile on their face, you know, like Dad, is he going to say anything? So anyway, finally, I said, “Alright the decision has been made and, unfortunately…” And the look in their faces dropped… “Unfortunately, dad’s going to have to get hamsters.” And they’re like ohhh! So they’re so excited, but one of my arguments was hamsters are horrendous companions. Like, who puts a hamster on a leash? If I’m walking down the street with a hamster on a leash, people are probably thinking I need to get medication. They’re like, this dude needs to honestly go back to school. You don’t put a hamster on a leash.

R: No, it bit me the other day when they were showing it to me.

W: You were so mad.

R: Yeah, I mean it hurt. They have little baby sharp razor teeth.

J: See, it’s not a good companion. You put them in a little plastic ball, right? That you can see through. And they just run around on the floor in the ball. You can’t even like… They don’t come when you call. They don’t listen. They just poop all over the, wherever they want. They’re just not good companions. They don’t even care about you. They don’t care about how you’re feeling, they don’t care if you had a good day or a bad day. You know, a dog would be a good companion. Talk about Bernie.

R: Oh, I got a dog named Bernard, Bernie for short.

J: Are you a Bernie Sanders guy?

R: No, I don’t know where we got the name from, to be honest with you, it just kind of fit him.

J: I thought it would be funny to ask on the podcast. Just to get everyone’s ears go, ooh!

R: Yeah, let’s go politics for a little.

J: That would be wise, right?

R: I mean, would it mean you’re a fan, or not a fan if you name your dog after a politician?

J: That’s a good point. We’ll leave that to the listeners.

R: Yeah, they can decide. But yeah, I think dogs are a way better companion.

J: Yeah, so we’re talking about how there are some companions in leadership that we don’t want, and there’s companions in leadership that we do want. Often we focus on the companions in leadership we’d rather not have around. There are some good companions and some bad companions when it comes to leadership. The first thing we started talking about was how pain is a bad companion of leadership. I can remember early on, one of my mentors, friends, that will remain unnamed just because you try not name drop, told me that pain will be a constant companion in leadership.

R: And it is.

J: It is. Talk about that a little bit.

R: It’s the one thing that I think is always there. We were even just talking this week about a leadership dilemma that we were in and we just kind of said, man it’s always something, isn’t it? You get through one, and I think the danger in that is, as a leader, there’s all of these, I’ve heard it said before, almost all these fault summits, which you get to a certain point, you think, it’s going to feel different, look different, be different, but there’s always tension, there’s always growing, there’s pain, there’s always stretching.

J: Yeah, it’s a lot like running, right? You know the first time you go running, maybe you run a mile, and you’re thinking to yourself, my gosh, is that painful. But six months in or two months in or whatever, when you run a mile, it’s not necessarily as painful, but the truth is you’ve conditioned yourself to where a mile no longer is satisfying. So you run two miles or three miles.

R: And you’re running it faster now.

J: And you’re running it faster, exactly, you’re running at a different pace. And so that’s the interesting thing in leadership. Now, I go running most mornings and I run a lot further than I used to and it’s as painful as it’s ever been, and that’s the same thing with leadership, right? It’s like where you’re leading now ten years into this journey. It doesn’t necessarily feel any different because the pain is as constant and the feeling of being unqualified is as constant, the frustrations are continuous, the reality is you’re leading at a higher level, you’re running further but the pain hasn’t subsided. It’s just as painful as it’s always been. Which, it’s not just a ministry thing, too. I sometimes get a little bit frustrated where I go to conferences, I’ll speak at conferences, wherever the Lord opens up for opportunities, and sometimes I feel like during Christian conferences and even in podcasts, I’m not even saying this is true, this could just be what I’ve perceived. I’m not saying this is a real reality, I’m saying this is what I sometimes feel. I sometimes feel like it’s only church conferences and Christian ministry leaders feel like ministry’s the hardest thing. Almost like there’s this bubble of whining within ministry and leadership because of the pain, but that’s true outside of just ministry. Like, even being a dad, even being a husband, leadership as a husband, leadership as a dad or as a mom or as a wife, right? No matter where you are in the marketplace, wherever there is leadership, a companion is pain, it’s not just in ministry.

R: It’s growing. And I think a big thing with that is just expectations.

J: Cause a lot of people think I need to leave ministry to get out of the pain, but if you leave ministry and go lead in another path, lead in another…

R: Context.

J: Yeah, you’re still going to be in pain if you’re leading. I’ve often told you when we’ve had these conversations there is a way to get out of the pain, is to choose to no longer lead, which means that you just go and you take a job where maybe you just have a task everyday and there’s really no one you lead, no one that’s accountable under you, and probably limited pain there.

R: So if pain is a companion in leadership, we need to have that expectation where to some degree it’s always going to be there. How do we turn that into something else?

J: I think the companion we want instead of pain is purpose. Right? The companion we want is to walk with purpose. Purpose reminding us of why it is we’re doing what it is we’re doing. Purpose reminding us of the conditioning that the decisions that the long days, that the hard moments are growing within us. So for instance, we’ll just go back to running just because we started that little train, we might as well stay out on it. When I’m running or when you’re running or when anybody’s running, and if you don’t run, you have probably ran before. One of the ways to get to the five miles or ten miles or 1 mile, one of the ways to get through it is to think of the purpose, right? So I can focus on the pain of the run or I can focus on the purpose of the run.

R: What’s the purpose for you of running?

J: Well, it used to be getting in good shape so that I looked really good for my wife on the beach. That never happened. And so now that I recognize that will never happen and the older I get, sincerely, the purpose for me is often I’ll think about my kids and I’ll think about having a good heart and I’ll think about just being physically in shape, I’ll think about my body, not how I look but how I feel after the run. Sometimes after I run I think mentally I’m much more focused and clear, energetic for the day. Also I think about the discipline of running and often I’ll think about pushing through while I’m running so the purpose, it’s funny, sometimes the purpose of getting through the run is literally to prove to myself that I’m not a quitter. And so I think there’s a bunch of different purposes in there because if the purpose was simply just a six pack on the beach, once I realize that’s not going to happen, I would stop, I wouldn’t run, I’d get tired and I’d quit. So I think if when you’re running, if it’s just going to be a record attendance this weekend and it doesn’t happen, you’re going to quit if you don’t go back to the purpose of why it is you’re doing it. If it’s just going to be these arbitrary mountain peaks throughout your ministry, throughout your career, you’re going to quit well before you should because you’re going to stop short if the purpose is unfulfilling.

R: Yeah. So examine the purpose if the pain is becoming too much.

J: Yeah, purpose keeps us pointed in the correct direction. Helps us gain endurance when the pain feels overwhelming, right? So if you’re in ministry, which many of our leaders are, if you’re not in ministry, if right now you’re feeling pain because maybe the ministry isn’t growing, you go back to the purpose. Why did God call me to lead here? When did God call me to lead here? What did I first feel when I entered this opportunity? And maybe in those moments you’ll once again find the endurance to keep running because you haven’t allowed your entire reality to be based off what’s causing pain, but you’ve dug deeper to find the purpose so that in spite of the pain you can continue to move forward.

R: That’s good. So pain for purpose, we have the companionship of pain we need to look at it through the lens of purpose. Another companion that we have would be loneliness, another companionship of leadership.

J: Leadership can be lonely. You ever deal with that?

R: Absolutely. Yeah, I think it’s one of those things where it’s often even a perceived loneliness I think sometimes, just because of the pain, the burden of it, you just think that nobody else cares. I think of often those times where you’re dealing with something you feel alone in it. There’s the sense of isolation and loneliness because the responsibility rests a lot of times solely on you, and that can be very lonely and an isolating place to be at, and it’s easy to continue to withdraw as a leader.

J: Yeah, I often feel lonely in crowds and lonely in leadership because I’m not quite sure anybody understands where I’m at or anyone’s ever been here before. It’s totally untrue, but sometimes those feelings can create loneliness and then as a leader, isn’t it sometimes hard to not feel lonely because who do you go to? Like, who do you go to, you can go to some of your friends, you can come to me, but that’s having to face the reality that you don’t have the answers on your own, and you’re too cocky to want to do that, and I’m too cocky to want to do that, and so our arrogance often puts us in a position of loneliness, you know? And you don’t want to go to your team and look like a complete goob, right? So there’s these feelings we have to have tension, we have to have it figured out, and loneliness can be really a constant companion of leadership. I don’t really have a cool thing to replace loneliness with other than just love.

R: Yeah.

J: But just being in relationships and the ultimate goal of that would be longevity. So loneliness, you know, if we can overtake loneliness with relationships, we’ll find ourselves in a position where longevity can be part of our legacy. Because a lonely leader is going to be taken out. Isolation leads to strangelation, which leads to isolation, ultimately elimination. And so I think for the leaders that are listening, every leader I’ve ever known that’s disqualified themselves, every leader I have ever known that has quit had a very weak support system around them. Or they weren’t willing to take advantage of the support system that was willingly around them. And so I think for many leaders this life of loneliness is ultimately going to lead to elimination. As Christian leaders, there’s a power far greater on our side and it’s the common bond and relationship of others, iron sharpening iron.

R: Yep. I can’t stress enough how often I think it really is a perceived loneliness within leadership. Yes, leadership can be lonely, but often times, at least in my own life it really is perceived. There’s plenty of opportunities for me to connect with other people, for me to reach out, to be encouraged, to be challenged. There’s that saying that those that run alone run fast but those that run together run far. And it really is a decision that we make in leadership. Do we want to do it alone?

J: Is this where we should talk about the Belgian horse?

R: The Belgian horse is a great illustration.

J: Then why don’t you tell me that?

R: I think I’d mess it up. I’ll take a stab at it and you can correct me when I’m wrong. Cause you just told this story at a conference you just spoke at.

J: Because you told me I should do it.

R: Because I found it somewhere.

J: You went on your fancy little iPhone and came out with this Belgian horse story. By the way, why are you looking into horses?

R: I think I was looking at accountability. It had something to do with accountability. Belgian horses, they can pull up to 8,000 pounds alone.

J: How do you get the name “Belgian horse”? Do they grow up on waffles?

R: They’re from Belgium, I think. (laughs) They can pull 8,000 pounds alone, and knowledge would then say, wisdom would say, well together, if you put two of them together they can probably to 16, but they can actually do twenty thousand some pounds.

J: No!

R: What is it? Is it, no?

J: You’re right, but you’re quitting because you’re getting nervous about your math.

R: What is it? It’s 23,000?

J: No, eight times three…?

R: Eight times three? See now you’re going to make me look stupid. (laughs) 24,000.

J: Okay. Exactly.

R: So three times the amount.

J: So one Belgian horse can do what?

R: 8,000.

J: Two can do what?

R: 24,000.

J: Yes.

R: Yes. Reason would tell you they could probably do 16, but they can actually do 23. 24. Which doesn’t really make sense. But if they know each other, if they have a working relationship, they can pull up to 32, I believe.

J: Yeah, baby!

R: I remembered it.

J: 32. So think about that. 32,000 pounds they can pull when they’re in a relationship working together. 8,000 alone. And I think far too many leaders are going to live their life struggling to pull 8,000 pounds alone when they could just find somebody to do life with, grow in a true intimate relationship with them so that they can pull 32,000 pounds together. Most leaders that pull 8,000 pounds their entire life alone will ultimately drop the reigns and choose no longer to pull. And so that’s just this thinking of in leadership we’ve got pain that’s constant, isolation that’s constant, we’ve got to focus on purpose and we’ve got to focus on longevity. And that’s this week’s podcast.

R: Yep, absolutely. Thank you for listening in.