Brad Lomenick on H3 Leadership

By Ken Wytsma

Brad Lomenick is a strategic advisor and leadership consultant specializing in influence, innovation, generational issues and business strategy. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences, churches and colleges as well as author of The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker and the recently released H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle. For over a decade, he served as lead visionary and president of Catalyst, one of America’s largest movements of Christian leaders. Before running Catalyst, he spent five years involved in the growth of the nationally acclaimed Life@Work magazine and was a management consultant with Cornerstone Group. Before that, he served as foreman for Lost Valley Ranch, a four-diamond working guest ranch in the mountains of Colorado. Brad serves on the advisory board for Suffered Enough, the A21 Campaign, Red Eye Inc. and Praxis. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: @bradlomenick, or check out his blog.

KW: H3 Leadership covers so much territory. How would you describe it?  

BL: H3 Leadership is my attempt to make sense out of the three big-picture characteristics I’ve discovered are most important to succeeding as a leader: humble, hungry, and hustle. The book really unpacks these 3 key pillars of leadership, and practically provides the 20 key Habits that all great leaders have in common.

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.

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.

In a culture craving authenticity, my goal is to provide a practical leadership guide delivered in truth and transparency.

Leadership is hard work, so it must be habitual work. You have to create habits in your leadership and around your leadership style. And because it’s difficult, we need to do something about it. So H3 is my attempt to make leadership more attainable, retainable, and sustainable over time.

Consequently, I almost titled the book “The Hard Work of Leadership.” Maybe “leadership is hard, so let’s do something about it!”

KW: You’re very open and honest about how you’ve led, especially Catalyst?  Why did you decide to include so much about, frankly, what you feel like you did wrong? 

BL: It was important to me to shoot really straight in this book. The very nature of this book required a bit more transparency. But I would also say that 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.”

Today, people crave authenticity. This need has even influenced the way we shop and purchase our products from organizations. Today, customers buy from those we feel are trustworthy.  Equally, we want to invest in people and companies that we can trust, not necessarily because they’re well known or largest or leaders in their industry.

Really, the first couple of chapters of the book are about defining and setting this foundation of “Man, you’ve got to be willing to be real with people around you if you want them to follow you.”

So often, leadership, especially self-help leadership and personal growth literature, can feel very pie in the sky––very esoteric. You’re philosophizing constantly.

Readers need a practical example that they can wrap their arms around––actually feel and see and experience the very specific thing that somebody has gone through. It’s one thing to tell others to be willing to share struggles and to talk about failures. It’s another thing to say, “Here’s what I’ve failed at.”

But the leaders I respect the most are the ones who continue to run the race well until the gun goes off, whether that’s because their life is over or they retire. That’s the posture of hungry: the idea that you constantly are learning and getting better. That’s the kind of leader I want to be. I think that’s the kind of leaders we need today.

I think it’s important for people to realize this is an ongoing journey.

KW: You say innovation should be a habit and that leaders should be change agents. Why is innovation- specifically, continuous, persistent innovation- so important for leaders? 

BL: Innovation is pushing yourself. When I say change agent, I’m referring to someone who is not just willing to put up with change, but someone who’s willing to 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––the mindset of constantly pursuing something better, of 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.

KW: A Habit of partnership seems to be important to you? How does a leader become collaborative without being competitive?  

BL: Collaboration has to flow from a place of generosity, truly believing that a higher tide lifts all boats. Be more concerned with others. Listen instead of talk. Be interested over interesting. To be collaborative we must understand that it’s not about me. It’s not about your organization, your non profit, or your project. It’s about connecting people, not competing. Collaborators are okay sharing their wisdom, their knowledge, their connections, and their networks, because collaboration means working together alongside others. Co-laboring. Building bridges instead of constructing walls. We at Catalyst have partnered with those who might be seen as competitors, because we believe in an abundance mentality. When you have an abundance mindset you are more likely to collaborate instead of compete. Avoid the scarcity mentality – the idea that there is only so much to go around. Think of churches in the same city- if you believe we’re all on the same team it’s much easier to collaborate instead of compete.

KW: What does the world need most from leaders today? 

BL: 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.

I have a deep passion for helping leaders lead well. It’s what drives me. I believe it’s my stewardship, and my responsibility to help these leaders do their jobs well- all over our country in our churches, businesses, and all organizations to lead well. And ultimately finish well. And I’m incredibly optimistic about the next wave of leaders who are now stepping into leadership roles. It’s a generation of leaders willing to work their guts outs for something bigger than themselves, and also willing to work together to accomplish the big vision.

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Categories: Innovation & Leadership

Ken Wytsma is a teacher, entrepreneur and author. He is the founder of The Justice Conference and president of Kilns College, as well as the author of Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things, The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith, and Create vs. Copy:Embrace Change. Ignite Creativity. Break Through with Imagination.

Theology and Culture