Q&A: Steven Furtick, Pastor, Elevation Church – Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast


– [Narrator] This is the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. – And welcome to the Craig
Groeschel Leadership Podcast. Our goal is to help you become the leader that others love to follow. And we’ve got an amazing episode with one of my closest
friends in the world and truly one of the most
creative leaders on planet Earth. He is a pastor, but he’s
so much more than a pastor. He’s an author. He is a creative leader, a
genius, creating content, probably the most listened to
pastor alive on the planet. And, your church is creating the songs that church’s are
singing around the world. I’m thrilled to have on my good friend, Pastor Steven Furtick. – Thank you. That’s a very, very kind introduction. It’s a little, little
on the generous side, but I’ll, I’ll take it. It’s all good. – Well, on the friendship
side, you mean the world to me. – Thank you. – And when we’re finished
doing this podcast, we’re going to the gym. As you can tell, Pastor
Steven been spending some time in the gym. – Do you feel like that’s a element of effective leadership is
being physically imposing, because I think many of
us are scared of you. (laughter) Intimidated by your biceps. Does that, does that, help you day to day. – I think, at my age, I’m gonna
use anything that I’ve got and so I’m gonna work
hard to keep in good shape as long as I can. – You should do a whole
podcast about that. Have you done a leadership
podcast about fitness? – Not about fitness. – Oh, hey, if you want to
hear the Craig Groeschel bonus leadership podcast, it will be free. – (chuckles) They’re all free. – And it’ll be (chuckles) a
fitness, a fitness edition. Let’s, who do we email about that? – Alright, before you hijack this podcast- (laughter) let’s, let’s talk about creativity. I want to talk about creative leadership. And, we have a lot of people that aren’t necessarily Christian and we’re super glad they’re
a part of the community. So, this isn’t gonna be like
real directed at spiritual Christianity or anything,
but I do wanna say, that you are a pastor of a
church and one of the things, a lot of people don’t know, they do know perhaps
that your church puts out some of the best and
most used worship music on planet Earth today. What some people don’t
know, that I do know, is that you are the creative
genius behind so much of it. – Well, again,- – And your not gonna own it, but yes.- – you’re saying like a friend.
– You’ve got an amazing team. – But yeah, I do, I write
songs with the team. Yes. – But yes, you write a lot of the songs. – Very involved and passionate. – And so, I wanna, I wanna,
get inside your mind. And I want you to help
me to help our listeners become more creative. So, let me just dive in
and ask you some questions. This is gonna be really helpful. Let’s start here, some people have misperceptions about how creative people work or think. So, like, they think, you
know, you walk into a room, you come out, you’ve got three
songs written or whatever. What do you think are some
of the common misperceptions that people may project onto
you as a creative leader. – I think it has to do with
the direction that inspiration comes from. Especially on a spiritual context. You know, like it’s falling from the sky. A song idea, or if we’re writing a talk. Or if we’re trying to get
an idea to inspire people that it’s gonna fall down. Usually, it feels more like
digging it out of the ground. Which is usually from within yourself. And the idea of inspiration
for me, it’s like, it comes from within
which is a deeper place. So, I think the idea of
waiting for creative ideas to come down fully fleshed out, is what keeps a lot of people
from discovering something that’s in the dirt. I always use the mental
model of mining gold, where you’re having to
get kind of get all the, you’re having to shake out all the stuff until what’s precious remains. That’s more of the
creative process for me. It’s not the idea of waiting
for something to come, but it’s the idea of
chiseling at something until what it, what it’s supposed to be. And I wonder how many people
would be set free knowing that it doesn’t come from somewhere else. You know, you usually
dig it out from within. – So, let’s say someone’s
writing a creative speech to motivate their team or whatever. Are you saying that, there
may be hours and hours and hours and hours of hitting a wall, before you find that gold? I mean, help me see what, what that creative process
looks like for you. – Well, let’s say that you
are trying to lead your team, and the challenge we face as leaders is finding fresh language
for a familiar concept. And we really wanna say
the same thing to our team over and over and over
again in a fresh way. And it’s usually just
either changing the angle or personalizing it, or
finding an updated way to come at that. So, I might spend a lot of
time finding the thread. And then once I find the
thread, within five minutes, I’ve got it. But it may feel like
days or weeks of thinking about it without finding it, so it feels highly unproductive
for a little while. It’s almost like cracking
a safe when you’re trying to think creatively. It might take you a long time to get in, but once you get in, there’s a lot in there. And so for me, once I find,
even if I’m preaching, or writing a song. Once I find, a theme or a word, or maybe a level of contrast
that I want to approach, then it’s like everything
unlocks from there. But to get to that point, sometimes requires a whole lot of nothing. I’m not afraid anymore of chasing down a bunch of bad ideas,
to get to a good one. I hold loosely to them, and I just use something
as a starting place. And then, when I find something better, I’m not afraid to let
go of what I had before. And I think a lot of us hold too tightly to our first idea, so we miss something that was better within the first idea. – So, do yo think to be
great at being creative, you have to be great at being selective? – Selective is one word. Yes. I think honest. I think a lot of times the first layer when we’re approaching a topic, if I wanna write about motivation or if I wanna write about teamwork. There’s what I think I’m supposed to say, and then there’s probably something truer beneath the surface which is a tension. So, the first thing I’m looking for when I’m trying to create
anything is tension. And there’s a old saying, you know, if you wanna get their, attention, you need, a tension. And I think a lot of people try to start with a flat, one dimensional idea, rather than looking for a
tension that’s interesting. So, my first question,
anytime, I’m creating is, what’s a tension that I wanna enter into that I don’t quite know the answer to yet. And then that gives me something that I’m a little bit
afraid of, intimidated by, and usually I come to something
much more interesting, by entering into a tension
than by just coming at a subject from one side. And then imposing all of my ideas on it. That’s one thing that
keeps me really fresh. – I think you do an amazing job at that. That you, and, you talk
about the honest part, I really think that’s key and something I haven’t really put language around, but you, you will say things that
others are even afraid to say. And I think that what
kind of creates the hook. And I wanna, kind of, just
chase that rabbit a minute. There’s, all content is not created equal. We can create content or ideas and some maybe just communicating. Others is creating content
that really connects with people, emotionally. And they’ll say, that
feeds me, that moves me, that motivates me. Talk to me about what goes on in your mind to create content that really
connects deeply with people. – I really don’t start with
what will connect with people. I start with what interests me. So, recently I was talking
to my team about dreaming. And the idea that I wanted to get across is that we don’t follow dreams. As we pursue purpose, dreams follow us. Because I’m kind of
disillusioned, I would say, with this idea of dream
whatever you wanna dream, and follow your dreams, and I think it sets a lot
of people up for failure. And I have a staff that
has a lot of people who are just in their first job, and I don’t want them to live this, this stage of their life thinking there’s something better out there. So, I came upon the idea of
the gift of disillusionment. Which even, within that, that
phrase is a lot of tension. What do yo mean gift of disillusionment? – It sounds bad. – Yeah it does. (chuckles) It’s, it’s the
opposite of what we think we want, but it what we really need
to become disillusioned with what we think
leadership is, for instance. – Right. – Or what we think parenthood is. In order to really embrace, what it is. And to see, what it can be. And so, what I mean, by
entering into the tension, or being honest, or
connecting with people, is if that doesn’t connect first with me, if that doesn’t first feel true within me, than I can definitely
force my point across and probably get it said. But I found usually, that if there’s not, if there’s not an element of vulnerability to whatever I’m creating,
or even as I’m sharing it, I’m risking that you could reject it. And, and, and, that you
could also think that I’m crazy, or if there’s not a sense
in which I’m wondering, is it just me? It doesn’t connect as deeply with people. That doesn’t make mean that I work out all my personal problems in front of people as a leader. I’m not using them for my therapy session. But that, that risk of
actually presenting the idea, not as I think it should be, but as it is, seems to draw people in. And I found out that if it’s true to you and if you’re willing
to disclose that layer. Not the faux vulnerability that we do. You know, as a pastor, you might say, I only prayed 30 minutes this morning, when you know everybody else is going, only 30. Or something like that, you know. I don’t mean that layer. I mean when you really
wrestle in front of your team, I think it creates a level
of trust from your team that they know, wow, it’s okay for me to wrestle too. And that encourages them, and, in a strange way, subversive way, inspires them to know, it’s
okay for them to have their own tensions and wrestling matches. – So helpful, Let’s talk about the process. So maybe, you go away with
a few of your songwriters. Or you’ve got to create some
kind of leadership message. And, is there a process that helps you get in a creative flow? A rhythm that you go back to? What, what is that creative
process look like for you? – Well, we have like the a, b, c. So, it’s always be collecting, Always be connecting. Always be collaborating. And the third one doesn’t
rhyme, but it’s the best we had. And so, the collecting thing is like this. There’s nothing worse, I don’t care whether you’re writing a song or brainstorming for a
strategy for business, than sitting down and going, what do you wanna write about? And what do you think we should do? So, even if, I don’t know
what the language barrier is on the Craig Groeschel
Leadership Podcast. But we call it, sucky starts. (chuckles) It’s like, this is
terrible, but it’s a start, and so, we’ll often use this language. Not this, but something like. And then the rule is show, don’t tell. So, don’t explain the idea. Like, what if we said
something in this song about mountains or something about oceans, or just how, no, like just actually show me. You know, ♪ Mountains and oceans
♪ ♪ Da, da, da, da ♪ I don’t know. ♪ Da, da, da da, da da ♪ And you feel so foolish doing it, but by willing, being
willing to put something out that someone can actually look at, rather than staying inside of yourself in a collaborative environment. I’ve been so many songwriting sessions, where I watch everybody over in the corner whispering to themselves, like they’re conjuring
something creatively. And I go, why are you in the
room together doing this, you could’ve done this apart. So, for me it’s about the
trust and the confidence to put something out there, even if you know it’s bad,
but it’s a starting place, so I would say collecting
gives you the ability to say, I’ve got this thing, I’ve been working on, it’s not very good, but
maybe you have something that you’ve been working
on, that’s not very good, and maybe your not very good, and my not very good,
will not be not very good, in just the perfect way together. And that’s where
collaboration gets me outside of having an idea that stays
on my phone for 18 months. And I’m a lot quicker to
hit send with a few people that I trust and say, can
you take this further? Or at least let me have
another human being hear that this exists, because maybe they’ll see something in it, that I don’t see. Or maybe they’ll tell me it’s terrible and shut it down and I won’t
waste any more time on it. So, those are kind of our
operating philosophies. – So, let’s say you hit a wall, and you can’t get any movement. Do you keep pressing? Do you step back? Do you walk away? What, what do you do? – It’s it’s a matter of both, because I think you have to
hold the idea very loosely. Sometimes, you’re in the middle of trying to make one idea work and
that idea was only meant to be a stepping stone
to another better idea like I mentioned earlier. So, pushing through, to
force the idea through, whether it’s a good idea or not, to me is not endurance. To me, that’s it’s, it’s, its own form of, you know, creative sabatage. To be so committed to your original idea. So, when you say, just push through, I think the idea is that
there are times when we say, today isn’t our day, let’s come at it fresh tomorrow. It’s the idea of not giving up on creating something great. Which for me, if I didn’t
have the deadline of having to give a talk to a group
of people every week, I would probably spend months and months and months trying to perfect something rather than just, doing
it, in it’s imperfection and finding the strength of that. So, I really think it’s both. I don’t think you should say, do you stop? Do you push through? I think there’s an element of letting go and holding to your ideas loosely, while insisting on pushing
yourself creatively. And staying in those awkward moments. How many times have you and I been just on the verge from
walking away from an idea when you never know, it’s like that, that movie with Tom Hanks, Castaway. And he thinks he’s
gonna die on the island, and then, I don’t know if it is a piece of a porta potty comes floating in and he’s able to make a boat. But he kinda says, you never know what the
tides gonna bring in. You know, just when I
was about to give up. And I think creativity is a lot like that. Like, just when your lost in the idea and you can’t figure out how
to put this thing together. Ah, here comes this thing you didn’t see or this store you didn’t remember, or this line, or this image. And those things usually
show up when you’ve gotten past the point of thinking, you know there’s some
sort of weird surrender that happens regardless
of your spiritual belief. Anyone who’s ever created
can attest that there’s, there’s something that
happens when you stop trying to control the process and
you kind of given it over. And you are no longer trying
to tell the idea what to be. But, you’re listening. Rather than imposing your idea on, onto whatever you’re trying to do. There’s something almost
magical that happens at that point, so I think often we have
to get past that point of exhaustion and exasperation to find something truly beautiful. – Mm-hmm. So you talked about the sucky start, which as a creative leader, sometimes you have a sucky finish. (laughter) Right? Or even in your mind,
maybe everyone else said, hey that was good, but it didn’t live up to your standards, talk to me about the
emotional end of that. How do you, How do you work through it? – Well the best part about it is, since there’s no scoreboard
on a lot of creative things. I mean, sure there’s downloads, or sales, or whatever like that, but nobody knows what you meant to do. So, (chuckles) you know,
they don’t really compare you to the same standard
you compare yourself to. Many times, I’ll be speak
and get off stage and go Aah, the way I heard it in
my head was so much better. Well, they don’t know that. They didn’t hear it in your head. They only heard it
coming out of your mouth. So, you’re good. You have a little grace there. But the second thing is, usually I know, that every creative failure, will be the seed of something
special in the future, if I will replant it. So, I try to take whether it’s something that I communicate verbally
or a song that I write. And it’s been surprising
how many times an element from the last one that I did, will show up in the
next one, and next one, and ideas build on themselves, so I kind of believe in
creative reincarnation. I believe it will show up
somewhere in the future, even if I invest five hours in this idea, and I don’t end up giving the talk. Or I spend months working on this song, and it’s never what it would have been. Something in it, will be something else. And I’ll see this idea again. And what that sets me from is from the need to see that
immediate outcome or payoff. I can just invest.
– It wasn’t a waste, Right? – It wasn’t a waste. – Yes, yeah, and sometimes
you have to chase, you have to go in a lot
of different directions to end up finding your way.
– But it gets dark. I’m really hard on myself. You and I talk so many times about how we thought it was gonna go and how it went. And I think how you manage
that expectation gap, has a lot to do with
creative sustainability. Especially if you need instant validation. ‘Cause a lot of times, you’re not gonna get it. I mean, I’ve stood up in front of my team that I lead. And I pay these people, and
given them two hours of content. – They’re supposed to like what you do. – Yeah, they’re, they’re at least supposed to tell me it was good
just for job security. But maybe, I won’t hear anything. So, I think you have to a
security within yourself to have your validation
meters on the inside and not the outside if
you’re gonna make it. – Yeah, I, I, I’d love
to dive more into that. So, you know, there may
be someone listening that says, well, I’m not really,
really a creative leader, but I’ve, I managed people that are. And creative people, we have to lead them in a different way. Because their work is, is often tied their identity, it’s their, it’s their art, not just the end project. What advice do you have for someone who is leading someone that’s really creative, maybe facing challenges,
and wants to get help get the most out of them? – Well, If it’s the
idea that they are more internally evaluating. Let’s take something that they’re creating for a video or a song. Or maybe something that’s
presentation oriented. And they have a more subjective standard. And you have the more objective standard, You’re the leader. And you’re going, you created this piece, I’m glad you thought
it was groundbreaking, nobody watched it, or
it didn’t ’cause people to take the action we wanted them to take. Then you as the leader are
trying to get them to see, hey, the elements of what
you created were valuable and I love how you did this. I think we used it in the wrong context. Anytime I evaluate someone’s creativity, I try to break it down into the elements and I try to not just categorize it as a win or a failure,
success or a failure, ’cause art’s more subjective than that. So, when we’re trying to
impose an objective measure on subjective work, we have to break it way down and go, This was great. That was great. I noticed how you did
that, because really, as creative people, we want you to notice
the love we put in it. How did you even think of that? What gave you the idea
to that, that, and that? And so I found that when
you acknowledge the love that was put into it, a lot of times, it
makes it easier for them to hear the corrections
that need to be made. In terms of the format,
or in terms of maybe, did it accomplish the goal. But to really be a fan
of what they’re doing, goes a long way. I mean, if you’re a fan
of what I’m creating, and you noticed, and you paid attention, and you saw that my heart was in it, I’m a lot more open to hear any tweaks or criticism, or evaluation. – So, if you preached a message, and I’m your friend, and
you walk off the stage and I come up to you and say, how’d you feel about that? – Worst question ever? (laughter) Yeah, I mean don’t you
think that’s the worst? There’s no worse question.
– It crushes me. Because you’ll say, they’ll say, how did you feel about that?
And you go, I felt good. Should I not? – Yeah, now, now I sort of don’t like it. – I think that would be the equivalent of your wife gets dressed up, you
know you’re going on a date, she spends an hour getting ready, she comes out you say- – You say, how do you think you look? – Exactly. How do you think you look? I don’t know, how do you think you look going out to eat by yourself tonight. Because- – ‘Cause, that’s what’s
gonna happen right about now. – So I think it’s, it’s
really important to respect, hey there is an ego involved,
whether it’s good or bad. And until we manage that part of it and acknowledge, hey I
saw what you put into it. And I noticed, and I paid attention. Rather than just wholesale scoring. Of it whether it was a win or a loss. Breaking it down into manageable elements. And you know, if we did this before that. I think the more specific you can be in evaluating creativity,
the more helpful it is. – Let me run down, one more big idea. I hope your answer to this is yes, if it’s not, it’s gonna be awkward. But, do you think that
leadership can be very creative? – Yes, and I think that
creative and leadership are boxes that we don’t fully understand. I look at the way that you lead, and I see the creativity in the systems of the organization. Not in songs that you sit and write. Like, I’ve never heard a
song that you’ve written and I don’t think I want to, (chuckles) but you know. Not trying
to crush your dream. – You don’t want to hear
a song that I sing.- – Maybe you’re disillusioned. – Yo don’t, you don’t want
me singing one of your songs. – But the point is the creativity that I’ve seen you
implement, into leadership, it functions in much the same way. You know, like there’s
elements of inspiration that you as a leader will get and you go, well what if we broke it up
into three instead of one? Or, we’re coming at it form this way, so I think we desperately
need the merger of those two. Because if it’s creativity
and no leadership, we make great stuff, nobody ever sees it,
hears, it, experiences it, and it’s important to us. If it’s leadership with no creativity, we have great distribution
systems with nothing to get out to people of any value. So, I really think we need those two to come together more and more. – Yeah, well, I wanna say
just to you, thank you. First of all, for your
friendship, that means the world. And then, your creative leadership, it really inspires me and
it makes a big difference. If you’ve never heard of
Pastor Steven Furtick before, you don’t have to be a Christian to admire and learn from his creative leadership, I would recommend you check out, all over social media, there’s millions of people that follow. Look at his YouTube Channel, Pastor Steven’s written books, and some of the, I think
the number two ranked song on the Christian charts
right now is one of the many that you guys have written, so check out Pastor Steven. Is there anything I didn’t
ask, you want to say? – No, but I love this leadership podcast. I’m glad you do it. Thank you for the delivering, you know, concise stuff, we can take
many people on our team, take this, teach it to our team, so it’s multiplied a thousand
to thousands of people. We appreciate it. – Love it. Well, thanks for your time, and if this is helpful,
it means the world. If you would share this on social media, if you rate or review it, it’s actually helpful. And we’ll release a brand new teaching the first Thursday of every single month. So, we’ll see you very soon. – And look out for the
Craig Groeschel fitness leadership podcast, coming soon. – It’s coming soon. Now, let’s see if you
know the closing line. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to get it right. Be yourself. Because people would rather follow – A leader that’s real than
a leader that’s always right. A leader that’s always real, than a leader that’s always right. – Boom! (slapping) – Thanks again for joining us at the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. If you’re enjoying learning from Craig, on this podcast, you can show your support by subscribing, rating, and reviewing on iTunes. And sharing with your
friends on social media. If you’re looking for the
leader guide of this episode, you can go to
life.church/leadershippodcast. In that leader guide, you’ll
find a recap of this episode, discussion questions,
and additional resources to hone your leadership skills. Until next time, thank
you for joining us at the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast.

34 thoughts on “Q&A: Steven Furtick, Pastor, Elevation Church – Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast”

  1. Two of my favorite pastors. Groeschel is the BEST teacher on leadership. Furtick leads a church that produced the BEST worship band in the world right now.

  2. Excellent interview. …so much to digest….and thanks Pastor Steven for sharing your angle on how to work with creative minds….👍🏼👍🏼

  3. So important to learn from men at this stage of their lives and careers – so much wisdom and growth coming out of the trenches, especially where it relates to the human factor and creating a space where folks can be real and honest and safe to process openly, yet also give and receive feedback surrounding a shared goal to succeed. Thank you Pastor Steven and Pastor Groshel.

  4. Love the admission about the question " How do you think you did." We often think that by approaching our teams with this statement, we limit the potential negative 'blow" to the confidence of our employees or teams when in reality we are just setting them up for more confusion and criticism. Both of you are right on the money when it comes to choosing as a leader to immediately recognize the best in our team members efforts first and acknowledge our appreciation for that effort. Keeping my employees fully engaged is one of my top priorities at all times in our work, not creating roadblocks to their willingness to engage in the creative process. When we don't recognize and appreciate those sucky starts and finishes as part of the developmental process of creating something amazing our folks tend to either be less willing to contribute or give up altogether. Great leadership lessons here!

  5. How about praying for God to show/inspire anything we do? Otherwise, it is about us and I am afraid that this belief elevates man's importance in what God does. I have not heard anything said in this podcast in thanking God for creativity or seeking ideas to honor Him. Dangerous.

  6. This was very necessary for me right now! I'm involved in two projects that are creative in nature, and I've been getting lost in what Pst. Steven calls the gift of disillusionment, it's helpful to know that it's okay, to wrestle with that and still push forward. This, I'll listen to over and over again.
    Thanks to two amazing leaders that bless my life.

  7. Two of my favorite Pastors! Both of these men are wise and so full of grace! 🙏❤️ I am thankful God introduced me to both of their services, they have helped me come to God in the darkest valley I have been in and am coming through! Thank you both!

  8. thank you….can, if you get tha chance have pastor Toure Roberts or Sarah J Roberts ?…or Heather and Corneious Lindsay ..or Lisa Beavere, some indeed truly anointed… respect to all

  9. Heracy coming in strong with this apostolic reformation. You are to lead the church with God and only God as the focus. You are supposed to be just a messenger. I wonder how men such as Elijah, elisha or even the apostles would feel about any of this. Your focus upon your so called "creativity" is purely self centered and what you have built for yourselves at best will be short lived in this vapor of existence and shall be held accountable in the day of judgement. For it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). No one needs or should care of your personal dreams or you emotions but only to be fed the word of God. Woe unto you wolves and repent of your ways before you have fallen so far that you no longer hear the true God in your heart but that of a lie.

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