Entrepreneurial Leadership



GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally.

TYLER: Even though we’re for leaders who love the church, it’s really an intentional thing for us. It’s not about church leaders, it’s about leaders who love the church—the big C church. It’s bankers who serve with students on the weekends, and we believe in the local church. I was a pastor for all those years; that’s my heartbeat. But I really believe that the church should be the best-run organization on the planet. So, that’s what we’re trying to do and, luckily, I’ve got a family that’s as excited about that as I am.

I’ve got a wife of fourteen years. We met here. We’re from Atlanta; we’re Atlanta natives so we know the Atlanta area very well, and it’s even funny now, because most of my team here at Catalyst are pretty young, and they live in the city. If you grew up in Atlanta, you did not live in the city.

Why don’t we live in the city? Have you been down there? Who lives in the city? But my wife and I both grew up in Gwinnett County, right out in a suburb of Atlanta. We’ve been married fourteen years, and we met at the University of Georgia. We have two boys. They’re eight and five, and they are keeping us non-stop busy.

My five-year-old does not stop asking questions, from the moment he wakes up in the morning till he goes to bed at night, but it’s pretty neat for me. The other day, I was going to speak and someone said, “What do you think your dad will speak on?” They both kind of rolled their eyes, smiled, and said, “Leadership”.

At least they hear about what I’m talking about a lot, and it’s such a great privilege that I really like I do what I do to equip the church, but it’s also a privilege to be a dad and a husband. That’s my goal, and I love that part of my job. I get to do that, and we have a good time being here in Atlanta. About three years ago, a guy called us to work with North Point, and for ten years, we had the incredible privilege to be a part of some really neat things that started with that church. I happened to be a part of North Point for a season in which I got to watch some amazing things happen. I moved over to full-time work, and I’ve been the director for about two years now.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: A lot of our listeners from around the States are huge fans of Catalyst and have been enjoying going to the conferences. There’s a lot of insight and benefits from what you guys do and how you’re equipping leaders. We’re appreciative of it, too, what you and your team are doing.

I really believe that, especially in Western culture and society, vocation and the workforce can be the greatest mission field for bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. It’s amazing for churches and pastors, and if we create strong entrepreneurs in our community, it’s mutually beneficial. If they succeed, we succeed, because if they’re successful financially, we have more money for resources and ministry.

Tell us about your journey over the years and how you transitioned from the church into running this organization called Catalyst. What did that look like for you? This new season that you’re in at Catalyst, what do you hope that that is defined by? What do you hope to accomplish there?

TYLER: The funny thing is, once I got called by my ministry full-time, I never pictured not being in the church, the local church, full-time. I started contracting with Catalyst as a producer about five years ago, and my wife said, “There’s something about you being a part of that organization that feels like it’s going to be a long-term thing.” I was just doing it three weeks a year at that time, and I remember saying, “I don’t know, because I don’t think I’d ever leave the church.” What’s been amazing is to watch God have a journey for me of combining this love of leadership and a passion for understanding how leadership makes the kingdom and drives the kingdom further, faster.

I do believe what the Bible is quoting all the time, saying the local church is the hope of the world. It is the hands and feet. It’s the vehicle with which Jesus presented this idea, and the local church is a gathering, a community, a body of believers. It’s not a building. The expression is many times referring to a building, but I think that the word “church” needs to be reclaimed to the beauty that God created it to be.

It’s really God’s story for me to be sitting in this seat, running a business and organization that’s not a church.

What’s amazing about it is that He’s coupled my love for leadership, my gift in leading teams, and love for the church in this position of leading an organization that leads leaders who love the church. Honestly, I can’t imagine being in a place where I feel more fulfilled in my calling than what I do right now. It’s been a journey.

I came out of college, I had a technology education degree, which means I knew production and random stuff like that, but then I also had been leading worship and small groups. Sometimes in our campus ministry, I was a better leader than I was a musician. I never thought I was called to that, but it gave me an experience that lasted me and led me into the next few years.

When I went up to the seminary on Tuesdays, I’d lead worship in the chapel. On Thursdays, I’d run sound at the chapel. I’d preach some, and I worked in sound. So, I just had this random conglomeration of stuff and experiences, but leadership was always something that came fairly natural to me. I remember telling Carrie, my wife, “I don’t know what God’s doing with all these random experiences that I have. Like, what is He going to do with all of this?”

We went through a season of nine months where we thought we were going to plant a church with some friends. That fell through, and we ended up living with my in-laws for nine months. That was awesome. I worked at my best friend’s dad’s boat shop, and God opened the right door, which was starting a little church.

North Point was going to put together something in Athens, Georgia, where I went to school, where I was part of campus ministry. I had never even heard of this position called service programming. And then, lo and behold, what that is, is that you are basically in charge of music production and leading. God just opened the right door at the right time. He took all that experience, and He weaved it into this beautiful gift.

After a year and a half at Athens, I moved out and helped start Browns Bridge, which was, at the time, one of the three campuses at North Point. It allowed me to sit at the table with Andy for eight and a half years, and hear him process and think through leadership. I fell in love with the church even more, and never thought I would leave, like I said.

I even pursued some other things in that time, and yet, God was saying, “Nope, not yet.” But in the midst of all that eight and a half years, I fell in love with the idea of coaching leaders. What does it mean to really get involved in the lives of leaders and encourage them? What does it mean to coach teams and make teams better? A good result with a bad process is a counterfeit win. As you’re building a business, building an organization, if you don’t get the process right, the product might still come across to the public as an amazing thing. If it’s assumed that the leadership, organization, and process is amazing because the product is amazing, that’s wrong. That’s a counterfeit win. It feels like a win, except no one wants to be in the room together on Monday, because they don’t like each other.

One of the things that I got passionate about, and felt like God opened the doors for, was getting certified as a coach to work with leaders. I was going to organizations and spending time with their leadership teams, saying, “Hey let’s work on you, this group, because the better you guys work together, the better your organization is going to be.” I believe that’s true for the church, because how you lead affects people’s faith.

What you preach on Sundays is a big deal, especially if it’s not matching your Monday through Friday. But bigger than that are the leadership decisions you’re making day in and day out that are affecting people’s faith, positively and negatively.

God opened the door, because I got involved producing this event and just had a contract for a couple of years. Brad Lomenick, who was my predecessor said, “Hey, will you come over full-time, be our creative director and executive producer, and develop our staff?” Those were the two things I felt were God’s gift to me. And the next thing I know, I’m sitting in the director’s seat a year later. I have zero business background. I’m still confused as to what IRL means, but what I do know is that, in two years, my experience as a business leader has exponentially grown. I feel really honored to get to sit in a seat and steward something like this.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: Leadership principles, in general, are pretty fluid in different realms of vocation and organizational leadership. What are three key principles that every entrepreneurial leader must have?

TYLER: Whether I walk into this building, a different building, a church, my house, I’m going to come with three things, at all cost.

The first one will be no surprise to anybody that works with me. It’s fun, and I know that you might be the only one person in the building, but if you don’t create a culture from the very beginning that’s fun, you’re just not going to have a lot of people who want to work there.

I believe Jesus talks about it in John 10:10. Have an abundant life, and one of those things is joy.

That requires having fun. I didn’t become a believer till late in high school, because I didn’t see a lot of believers that were fun. I believed in Jesus, I grew up around him, I cared about him, I thought he was awesome. What I didn’t necessarily believe in was that people grew, that they followed him. For me, why would I sign up not only for that set of rules, but to look and act like that? That seems like a no brainer. I’ve met some people where there was a difference, and there was this joy, this light. I’d say fun is a huge part, no matter if there’s one person in the building, or a thousand people. The more people there are, the harder it is to try to have fun because you feel like you’ve got to try to be so serious all the time.

The second thing that I would say, and honestly, this would be the highest value for me—is that you choose people over profit. A friend of mine, Dale Partridge, uses that phrase: relationships are results, people over profit. How do we continue to make sure of that, at the end of the day? We’re reminded, yes, business is business, but I cannot treat people as business. People are people, and I have to care for them, especially if God entrusted me to care for them and their livelihood, if they’ve entrusted their season or career into my hands.

So many times, we see that’s the other way around. “We’re entrusting you.” But people are also saying, “I’m putting all these other opportunities on hold because I feel like I’m supposed to be here.”

We’ve got to steward that really well, which means people need to take precedence over profit. If you do that well, profit only gets better. It goes back to the counterfeit win principle—if you get the process right, the product will not suffer.

But this product will absolutely suffer if the process continues to be crappy. It just will, and you might have some short-term gain, but that will not get a long-term sustainable option. The way to make a process great is to put people over profit, and remember that relationships are results.

The third thing—at all costs, fight for integrity. At the very beginning of these organizations, you’re creating these ideas you have. There’s going to be so many opportunities to shortcut. You can do these things where you can get really close to that line. I’m the only one here. Nobody’s taking this. What? You are creating habits for a lifetime of business.

Fight for integrity. The way I describe integrity is consistency, who you are, what you say you are, and who people expect when they walk in the building. It should be the same person. I don’t have a work personality, and I don’t have a home personality:

I do different things, but I want my team here at work to know who they’re going to get when I walk in this building. Now, I’ve got good days and bad days, but let those be an exception to the rule and not be what people expect.

Those are the three things: that you’d have fun, that you serve people, and that you have integrity in what you do.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: For many entrepreneurs, especially solo entrepreneurs who have a dream of one day building a team, when growing an organization there’s a tendency to want to invest in my team. I want to do this thing, but there’s this friction there. “But nobody can do it as good as I can do it.” Let other people run with the ball in those kinds of things.

One question is, how do you develop yourself? Both from an individual perspective, as well as from a team perspective? How do we develop ourselves at getting better at investing in our teams and being intentional on exactly what you are talking about?

On creating, making sure that the process, whether you’re talking about developing new product, or just the process of investing in your team—how do you create that type of culture for yourself as a leader and within your organization as a whole?

TYLER: That’s something that my attention centers on quite often, because I care about it tremendously.

The first thought I have is that, and what John Maxwell used to say, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

At the end of the day, you can try to train, develop, and even disciple, or whatever, but if people feel like you don’t care, they’ll see right through it. You have to start by choosing a lifestyle of serving, believing in people, and caring.

You’ve got to start with the fact that you can believe that they can do it, and maybe do it better than you. The reality is, most founders and entrepreneurs tend to turn into founders, and they tend to struggle with this ten years down the line, saying, “Oh, but I started this, I’ve got the best ideas.” That’s hard. Even as an entrepreneur, start thinking succession.

How can I get people in place so that, when the time comes, if I need to take my hands off the steering wheel of this thing, I’m ready to do that because I’ve been thinking about that the whole time?

The other thing is, even though my team is probably tired of me beating this drum, you need to start by reading the emotional intelligence article by Daniel Goldman, in Harvard Business Review from the 1990s. It was called “What Makes a Great Leader,” I think.

Emotional intelligence is one of those concepts that separate great leaders from good leaders. The best leaders of people are not just the ones who can execute best, it’s the ones who know how to lead people best. There was data from these Fortune 500 companies, and the top CEOs were not necessarily just the top-grossing CEOs, they were CEOS who were considered to be the best at leading people. Because emotional intelligence is these five concepts, you can’t stop talking about these five things. It’s what separates out great leaders. So, it starts with self-awareness. You’ve got to be aware of who you are, and that’s one of your jobs as the leader—to continue to bring out the best in your team and the people around you, so that they know and they have self-awareness.

Then it moves to self-regulation. It’s not okay to just be self-aware; now you have to do more than just catch yourself being condescending, or rude, or whatever, because you’re self-aware. It’s then about stopping that behavior, so you can move forward. Then you have to have motivation, empathy, and social skills. Those are the five things.

As a leader, if I’m going to start fighting for those for myself, I’m going to see that in people around me. I’m going to continue to fight to say those things, to encourage them, to equip them to be emotionally intelligent leaders, not just great at executing Excel documents or a marketing plan.

I hired you because you are an expert at what you do; you have competence. Obviously, you need training, and you’ll continue to grow and develop. I feel like my job as a leader is to make sure I develop them as leaders and let their competency catch up, as they’re continually moving forward at being leaders.

I’ve got a few people on my team that didn’t necessarily have the experience yet for the position I’m putting them in. Based on my trusting them, it forces me to invest in them, because the position is potentially outside of their experience and expertise. It forces me to invest in them, to fight for their experience, and then also, I have to trust them to try some of this stuff. I think, for me, living in that emotional intelligence space and fighting for that, that’s where I would start that conversation.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: We have a couple of more minutes left here. We want to know how the gospel drives your work. How does it sustain your work? How do you continually lean in to the gospel, to get the job done?

TYLER: I believe that one of the central concepts in the Gospel is that Jesus came for people. He came for you and me, that everything we do interacts with people. I mentioned this earlier, John 10:10 is probably the verse that drives me, in general. It is this idea that, as believers, we aren’t just called to live a normal life. There’s something so much bigger and so much more for us, if we just continue to lean into the Holy Spirit and into the Lord.

We have a hope and a joy that the world doesn’t necessarily get to experience, apart from Jesus. Every day that I walk into this building, I know that I’ve got 25 people who I can impact in a positive or negative way. I can impact them toward abundant life, or I can impact them in a way that tends to pull them away from that abundant life, because my actions are how I lead.

I want to create a space for a group of leaders to grow to become better leaders, to be better parents, to be better friends, and to be better at sharing this news that we feel is so important, and it’s the best thing we’ve ever heard. Day in and day out, the Gospel really is driving me to treat people correctly, to have integrity in what I do, and to try to create places where people can experience God and have that abundant joy-filled life. For me, that is a constant thought in my mind.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: It’s time for some rapid-fire questions. Give us one success quote or verse that has inspired you. How does this quote or verse drive all of your work?

TYLER: We’re about to move into a season at Catalyst, for a theme called Awaken the Wonder. It came out of a book called “Dangerous Wonder,” by Mike Yaconelli. I read it in college, and it’s still probably one of my favorite books of all time. In the introduction, he says just one thing, and I’m going to paraphrase it a little bit. He said that as spiritual leaders, as leaders, we have mastered the art of mimicking aliveness. It pierces my heart every time I think about it, because so many of us are so good at acting. We’re so good at feeling one way and presenting ourselves in a different way.

Especially in a Christian, faith-based world, it’s okay to not be okay but, at the end the day, quit mimicking and mastering the art of mimicking this aliveness, and be alive. Be alive, let God be awake in you, let him continue to move your life.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one tool that you would highly recommend to entrepreneurs, leaders, and others who are trying to move their ideas forward?

TYLER: That’s a really good question. I’ll be honest, I’m still a fairly analogue guy, even though I’m in a very digital world, so I use a lot of digital things, but I always have a pen and pad right next to me. And I know that sounds old-school, and maybe I am. I told my team one time, email is not a work-style, it is a communication tool. If you don’t get an email back, and I walk over and talk to you, consider that email closed.

Face-to-face relationships are more important than all these other tools. Try not to forget those things in the midst of trying to make sure you’re organizing your business together.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: Well, what is one book that you would recommend to gospel driven leaders and entrepreneurs?

TYLER: If I could have written a leadership book, Simon Sinek beat me to it with, “Leaders Eat Last.” It’s my favorite book on leadership right now, but it goes back to the concepts we talked about; you choose to put people before yourself in every business and venture, in everything that you do. If you do that, boy, it will be amazing how people feel and how they want to follow you as a leader.

GOSPEL DRIVEN: Catalyst Conference is October 7th to the 9th. Where can our audience find both Catalyst online, social media, as well as your personal data. How can they find what you got going on online as well?

TYLER: Go to, and you can catch up with all of our events, find out all their information. I tell you, one of the greatest places right now is the Catalyst App. You can download it in the iTunes App Store, because we’re really 2.0 in a week, and it is unbelievable. It really is the center of what we are trying to communicate.

You can follow Catalyst @catalystleader on Instagram, Twitter, all the social media feeds. I’m on Instagram and Twitter @tylerreagin, but I’d really rather you go to @catalystleader; it’s way more fun and exciting.