Tyler Reagin knows about leadership.

As the president of Catalyst, he helps create resources and massive events for leaders in the Church, around the world. More than 100,000 leaders connect with Catalyst every year.

In his new book, The Life-Giving Leader, Reagin looks at how great leaders aren’t simply focused on getting projects done; they’re focused on investing into the relationships that matter.

We recently talked him about the book, and why being “life-giving” is so critical.

Why did you want to write this book? It was years in the making, but why now?

I continued to see the need for great leadership, whether it’s in the business space or the church space. You name it. I’ve been a Christian for 25 years, and when I think about leadership, I think through the lens of faith. So for me, why it’s so important to believers is because how we lead affects people’s faith. And we just see that epidemic happening time and time again of the pain it’s caused when people don’t lead in a life-giving way.

When you see leaders who aren’t leading in a life-giving way, what are some mistakes they are making?

Ninety percent of leadership issues can be traced back to a lack of self-awareness—a lot of leaders who aren’t self-leading or focusing on how they are uniquely wired or how they are gifted to lead. They just go out and execute, without even thinking of the emotional damage and the turmoil that can happen.

There’s a lot of great leaders who are incredible executors, Type A leaders and driven individuals. Without some self-awareness and self-regulation—emotional intelligent-type things—they’re gonna leave a wake of bodies behind them. And for me, the point in this conversation, if you follow Jesus there’s an even higher standard to recognize.

A lot of people end up getting hurt by someone who represents God to them. That’s a big deal, how we lead and care for those who are put right in our circle of influence.

The adjective “life-giving” is so interesting to use to describe a leadership style. Why is that the approach that you feel like is the most important and successful one?

One of the things we say at Catalyst when we do our events is we pray that at our event, that grace and life flow from our stage and aren’t required for our stage. In other words, we want to be so excellent and world class in every detail and aspect of what we do from the stage that there is nothing that we are requiring from the people in the audience. 

You’ve been to concerts, you’ve been to maybe services whatever where they took something from you because the flow is wrong. When I think about leadership, I want to be the kind of leader that life is flowing from me and isn’t being required for me because I’m leading poorly.

So each of us have an opportunity in leadership to determine the flow of life. Is it going to go from us to the people that have been entrusted to us? Or is it going to be required for us, because we’ve got bitterness in our hearts because we haven’t really taken the time to really understand the team that we’ve been handed, or we don’t know what to do with this platform that’s been handed to us, or we haven’t learned ourselves well enough. Or bigger question, do we even believe that leadership matters, or does it matter just how we execute projects?

I think it goes back to the understanding of what is the focus of my attention day in and day out. Is it to take the people around me and give them life, invest in them, raise them up? I think at the end of the day, I would rather do that and make sure that they’re successful. That’s success in my opinion.

What’s been the reaction of people who’ve read the book? 

The message that really resonated with people [was the idea of] …  “Wow I do have a responsibility and a stewardship to the people that have been interested to my life.”

I think for a lot of people, that’s almost a wake-up call. And I talk about this in the book, the lady who was a hospice nurse spent seven years interviewing people on their deathbed asking them what their biggest regret in life was: The No. 1 regret was that I was never my truest self.

In other words, they lived their life to whatever circumstance or job or career or whatever culture group said they should be.

I want the end of my life for the people around me that were closest to me going, ‘Gosh he loved us well. Man, he cared for me.’ I think so many leaders put that in the group of family and friends, and don’t let that expand to the circle of influence they have at work and at church and on their coaching teams on their sports teams whatever.

All the sudden you start expanding it out, and going, “Gosh, everyday I have an opportunity to love some people well,” and you and I both know there’s a lot of people that need some love and grace in their life. and I want to be one of those people that that’s just part of I’m known for.

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