An Interview with Ronnie Floyd
By Matt Erickson
Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, wants leaders to rethink the way they approach leadership. In his new book Forward: 7 Distinguishing Marks for Future Leaders, he illustrates seven characteristics that define forward leaders. Facts & Trends spoke with him about a few of those essential elements.
Tell us about Your new book.
Forward leaders rise to lead people to a better future. Unfortunately, leaders like this are missing in action. I believe most leaders forfeit the opportunity to lead big because they’re limited by their own too-small thinking and preferences. They listen far too much to the applause of their “groups” or “tribes,” forgetting they’re a part of something bigger.
Forward is about a new kind of leader who must rise up to lead in the world of today and in the world of tomorrow. Forward is a call, a process, a direction, and a change.
I discuss seven distinguishing marks for future leaders. I believe these marks can equip leaders of all ages, ethnicities, and vocations to seize the future before them.
What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned as a leader?
Every hill is not worth dying on. Leadership is not about being right or having the last word; leadership is about taking people with you to a future that’s better than the current reality.
I’ve also learned the importance of leading with absolute clarity. If a leader is not clear, people are unable to align with the leader’s vision.
I’ve come to understand the importance of simplicity, too. A good leader takes the complex and makes it simple. While there are a myriad of things a leader can do, a leader must do the right thing at the right time in order to lead effectively.
And I’ve learned the high value of seeking to become more teachable. The longer I lead, the more teachable I want to become. Leaders who don’t keep growing personally will lead in the wrong direction and eventually forfeit their influence.
Why is now the right time to raise a generation of forward leaders?
I would answer your question with these two questions: Where are the influential leaders today? Where are the leaders who are willing to step up now and lead big, keeping their message so big they create a movement of people who want to follow them?
Every segment of society needs a new kind of leader to emerge. The field is wide open, and regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, the future awaits to be claimed by effective, influential leaders.
How would American Christianity look different if church leaders adopted the principles outlined in Forward ?
We would see leaders who lead by truth and with trust instead of only by style and a smile. I also believe we would see leaders with a multi-generational appeal, going beyond the interests of their own generation.
A forward-looking leader will have to be culturally sensitive, aware of different ethnicities and practices. Failing to do so could be very costly.
And we would have leaders who are motivated by compassion. They would be able to see what others see, hear what others hear, and feel what others feel. The personal price can be high, but the return is worth it.
What’s it like being a ministry leader and a husband and father? How do you balance the two?
Leaders have to be driven by their priorities, not by their preferences. Besides my daily walk with Christ, my family has always been the next priority. I practiced this when my kids lived at home and still do in my marriage. And I attempt to make my six grandchildren a priority, too.
I have chosen to say no to lesser things in order to say yes to the right things. This is what future leaders do when they lead by their priorities.
How do you envision pastors embracing these lessons?
I believe pastors who read this book with openness and a willingness to change can take away several things that can improve their leadership and expand their kingdom influence across the globe.
I believe we settle for the status quo way too often. Even some of us who have been entrusted with leading larger churches and organizations lead too small at times, limiting our influence and impact.
Forward is about a call for a new kind of leader—leaders who lead bigger than they are leading today. I really believe when a pastor implements a few of these principles, church members will be thinking: Our pastor is growing in his leadership. You see, even after someone has been at the same church for as long as I have, 28 years, you want your people to be able to say this about you.
Who are some church leaders who have inspired your leadership?
I was impacted by the courage of Adrian Rogers, the statesmanship of Jimmy Draper, the scholarship of W.A. Criswell and Paige Patterson, the vision of Jerry Falwell, the preaching of Jerry Vines, the evangelism of Billy Graham, the classrooms of Roy Fish and Oscar Thompson, and the passion of Harold O’Chester. I also learned about building an evangelistic church from John Bisagno, and the leadership to reach a city from Edwin Young Sr.
What about leaders outside the church?
Growing up, I was impacted by the eloquence of John F. Kennedy, the courage of Martin Luther King Jr., the true forward leadership of Ronald Reagan, and the historical influence of men like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. These men and others like them continue to challenge me greatly.
Because I came to Northwest Arkansas as a very young leader and due to the simultaneous emergence of this highly influential region with the corporate influence of Walmart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Food, and the University of Arkansas, I would be remiss not to mention their impact upon my leadership. I’m still impacted by the forward thinking of Sam Walton, the friendship and vision of J.B. Hunt, and the contagious enthusiasm of Frank Broyles. All of these people and more have impacted my leadership greatly.
MATT ERICKSON (@_Matt_Erickson) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.