This summer, I had the mind boggling opportunity to meet and spend some time with Brad Lomenick - someone I have watched and admired from a distance as he led Catalyst Conference, one of the largest gatherings of young Christian leaders in the nation - I'm talking stadiums filled with hungry, young, innovative leaders wanting to see God move in our generation. Brad was the man behind these efforts, and of course, I'm sure he would give all credit to the incredible team he led in making it all happen.
Not only is Brad one of the ultimate authorities on the subject of effective leadership, but his book is absolutely incredible. It is a manifesto for leaders everywhere to engage a new level of effectiveness and depth as they peer into the soul of their leadership. It is jam-packed with so much good stuff, it's hard to believe it is all in one book.
I have the opportunity below to chat with Brad, and I hope this will help give you a better picture of who he is, and how his new book can help you:
Matt: I know this is your second book. Tell me a little bit about it, and what inspired you to write it?
Brad: Based on over a decade of work with Catalyst and the gathered insights of some of America’s most respected leaders from wide ranging fields, my new book offers 20 key leadership habits that will teach and train you to be a better, stronger and ultimately a more effective leader.
In H3 Leadership I worked to uncover and clearly define the key habits I saw in great leaders, that will establish a clear path to long-term sustainable influence for any leader. 20 Key habits all great leaders have in common and essential to all effective leaders. These 20 key Habits are not grand gestures of power, but simple practices that can easily be implemented into everyday life.
Nearly half the actions leaders take every day aren’t choices—they’re habits. That’s why great leaders are intentional about what habits they develop and why. Leadership is hard work, so leadership must be habitual work.
Matt: The story behind the book is extremely personal to you. Can you share a bit of that with us?
Brad: Leading is difficult and anyone who has been in a position of authority or influence for very long grapples with it. I know this first hand. I experienced my own leadership crisis back in 2013. Sitting at lunch with a close friend, he challenged me on my own leadership, and I knew I needed a restart. I was at a critical point and needed a break. My leadership was stale and needed to be re-ignited and re-established.
So I took a break from Catalyst, the organization I’d led for over a decade. It was an incredible period of renewal and focus for me. I pinpointed all of the habits found in the book in a frenzy of inspiration at the end of that sabbatical.
I’d had time to reflect on who I was as a leader and to consider all of the incredible leaders with whom I’ve worked over the years. I’d also had time to think about what humble, hungry, and hustle really look like––about how you live those ideas out through habits.
In many ways, this book was birthed out of my own personal leadership “reboot.” And from that leadership mile marker I was reminded and re-enforced by the 20 key habits that must be put into place. I had to return to what I knew as a leader. The 3 H’s of Leadership- Humble, Hungry and Hustle. These would be the foundational building blocks for re-igniting my leadership and putting some key habits back in place. The 20 key habits that re-established my core leadership foundation and will serve as my own personal leadership playbook for the next 30 years of my career life, the second half of my own leadership journey, providing vision and passion and a re-focused lens for being a change maker.
I returned to the understanding that effective leadership – the type that enables one to truly become a change agent in the modern world, is ultimately worked out every day in the tasks we complete, the ways we approach our work, and the rhythm we nurture in our lives. It hangs on the hooks of the patterns we create, not just the success we may stumble upon.
H3 Leadership details how to develop the habits leaders need to thrive. It also traces my own wins and failures as a leader. It’s a very personal book. I’m sharing many times from my own failures in my personal journey. The book is a combination of roadmap, advice, and honest anecdotes from someone who’s been in the trenches.
Matt: This book is all about habits. Something I'm passionate about. Why was this focus on habits so important to you?
Brad: Because it’s very easy for us to flame out. We start strong as leaders, but many times don’t finish strong...and lose momentum, and then don't finish well. This is why leadership habits are so important. Habits will allow you to sustain and finish well. Habits put discipline in place - daily discipline and a system that hopefully is second nature like brushing your teeth.
You will never change your life and truly become a change maker until you change your habits. Until you change your normal, daily routine. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. The habits you’ve formed and continue to form. What becomes second hand and internal. Leadership comes down to the practical, the everyday, the blocking and tackling. The components that are not sexy to talk about or don’t wow a crowd at the latest leadership conference or inspirational gathering. But more the stuff that no one really wants to pay attention to. That is where the essence of your leadership journey begins. In the mundane everyday systematic pace and process and routine of life.
Change what you do daily and you will change what you do weekly, and monthly, and yearly, and for a lifetime. Transformation happens because of habits, key elements and essentials becoming second hand, part of your normal routine and actions.
Goals lead to behavior, which leads to practice, which leads to habits, which lead to change, which leads to health. How you approach your day is how you will ultimately live your life. Daily habits lead to yearly transformation, which leads to lifetime influence and impact.
Matt: One of the habits you mention in the book is innovation. How can leaders make a habit of innovation?
Brad: Leaders must be change agents who are not just willing to put up with change, but embrace it. They see change as a friend and recognize that without change, things die.
Innovation is all about being intentional. It takes courage, stamina, and spark to be intentional, but it also takes failure. You have to know that you’re going to fail, over and over again.
We tend to automatically associate innovation with creativity––and that’s not wrong. It does require creativity. But it’s more about intentionality–it's about constantly pursuing something better; constantly pushing the boundaries, and never sitting still.
Healthy things grow, and growth requires change. Leaders who don’t change––don’t innovate––are going to be left behind.
Matt: You also write that no habit is more important than execution. Why is that?
Brad: Execution is incredibly important––and so many leaders are actually pretty bad at it. I think that’s due in large part to the fact that many leaders are natural initiators who are invigorated and motivated by taking risks on new endeavors. Getting started is important. But finishing is more important––otherwise, what’s the point?
In the book, I delve deeply into ways to cultivate a habit of execution. I look at procedural tips like creating a plan for accountability and discovering the time of day when you’re the most productive, to hiring good people who are strong finishers––not just strong talkers.
Matt: What do you believe is the single most important trait for leaders today?
Brad: That’s a tough question because I think the scorecard for leaders is cumulative. I mean, you can live out a few of these habits well, but if you’re not pursuing and embracing all of them, then you’re still missing pieces of the puzzle. Your leadership will feel incomplete, both to you and to others.
That said, I think the most important thing for leaders today is to understand their individual identity and calling, and to be authentic.
We don’t need perfect leaders. We need realness over relevancy. That’s the good news. The pressure is really off if leaders are willing to lead from their authentic selves. There's such a hunger for realness today. If you're willing to embrace that, people will follow you.
It was important to me to shoot really straight about my own failures in this book. I believe the leaders who will have the most influence and impact are the ones who are willing to be vulnerable and talk openly about their struggles and failures.
And that’s a hard thing for a lot of leaders to do. Many times, when we get to a point where other people are listening to us, and we've got something to manage––something to lose––we sort of go into the default mode of “Okay, make sure everything looks perfect.” But that's not what people need from us. They need to see us authentically living out our calling, challenges and all.
Brad Lomenick is a renowned speaker, sought-after leadership consultant, author and longtime president of Catalyst, largely credited with growing the organization into one of the largest and most recognized leadership brands and gatherings. For over 10 years, Brad led Catalyst Conference, which convened many of America’s most respected leaders including John Maxwell, Jim Collins, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Mark Burnett, Tony Dungy, Marcus Buckingham and Rick Warren, among many others. He frequently blogs about leadership, the next generation, creativity, innovation, social media, teamwork, personal growth, and more on his website. He has been featured by TIME, Washington Post, Fast Company, Business Insider, CNN, Religion News Service, and others. For more information, visit bradlomenick.com.