Updated: Nov 18, 2019
I admire Pastor Julian and his leadership. He's Lead Pastor of Oasis Church, Chaplain for the L.A. Clippers, and a dedicated, loving husband and dad. I want to learn from him. And I want you to have a front row seat with me. Here is our recent conversation on leadership.
You’ve been successful in ministry, in business, and in nonprofits. When did you know you were a leader? What happened?
JL: I knew I was a leader when I was exhibiting negative behaviors, and I could see them in other people.
What do you mean by that?
JL: Years ago people were reproducing what I was doing. Negative or positive. But specifically negative. I knew I was a leader when I’d spend all my money on clothes, and my friends would. Or I would speak with a foul mouth, and people who didn’t cuss a lot would. I started to see that phrases or slang that I use, people used it. So, I knew I was a leader when people started doing what I did – good, bad, or indifferent. I recognized it when it was negative….people would follow what I did.
When you made the transition from a leader that was just being followed to a leader that you were proud that people followed, what were your keys of leadership that changed it?
JL: The biggest key was I cared about who was following me more than where I was going. And so I would move at a pace to make sure that they were still there. Whereas before, I would move at such speed -- I would wake up . . . and nobody was there. And I didn’t care. Because I was successful. So, I didn’t move at a pace where people could keep up.
God told me this specifically one time. We can get frustrated when people aren’t doing what we don’t want them to do. But he said, “A real king doesn’t get mad that he’s the only one.”
So, I knew that I was the person who was responsible for them. And I took responsibility for that person, and if they didn’t get there, I could honestly say I did everything I could.
How did you have the patience to slow down when as leaders we want to move forward and charge through the vision?
JL: I think that values precede vision. So, you do have a time where your vision will get in the way of your values, or your values get in the way of your vision. And if you pick vision over values, less people will follow you. Most of the people who follow you don’t care about where you’re going. They are just glad that they are going with you. They don’t care. It’s actually rare to find someone that agrees with where you are going. They just want to go with you.
Jesus said, "I called my disciples to be with me where I am." He said that because even though he cared a lot about what he was there to do, he also cared about the people that were following him to do it.
So, you discovered your leadership presence.
JL: Being a pastor, if the most important thing about God is his presence, the most important thing about a leader is his presence. Not where he’s going or his vision…but the fact that he’s there. As a leader, I knew that the busier I got, I wasn’t always accessible, but I was always approachable and available. So, I’m not accessible, meaning that I’m not always going to be around so that you can just say, “Hey! I got a question.” I’m not accessible. I am approachable, and I am available. So, if you make the effort…I’m there. And a lot of leaders feel guilty because they’re not accessible, so they stop being approachable and available. So, that was a big key for me: being approachable and available.
Now you are in the phase where you are Lead Pastor of Oasis and Chaplain for the L.A. Clippers. What are your keys to leadership now?
JL: A lot them are still the same. The number one thing that is important to our organization is our values. The number two thing is our culture: the extravagant expression of the values builds a culture. So, if you want a culture of generosity, you have to express the value of generosity in an extravagant way for it to become culture. Why? The vision of a leader is precious seed. But the culture is the soil that you put the seed in. So, you have a lot of leaders that are putting great seed in bad dirt. And they are wondering why their vision has slowed down. Because the vision is the seed. The culture is the soil. You can actually put relatively average vision in exceptional culture, and it will thrive. But people are putting unbelievable vision in toxic culture.
Why do you think leaders are so focused on vision vs. culture? Is it because it’s easier or they’re not aware?
JL: I don’t think that they’ve done their homework. To be honest with you, it’s like, you find Southwest that is known for company culture doesn’t have the same financial issues that other airlines have. Nordstrom’s, when brick and mortar retail is getting its back broken by online, is still a thriving company over company culture. So, when you go to a restaurant and you have bad service and bad culture, good food don’t matter. You can’t have a restaurant that says, “Our vision is to have great food.” No, you need both. So, I think that if people don’t do their homework and see that culture can sustain market changes and churches leading…cultures will sustain vision.
That's amazing. The way you talk about it is a way I haven't heard before. It's powerful! The last thing is I'm going to promote something for you. Is there something that you want people to know about that I can promote?
JL: I’m just beginning my journey . . . I want them to know about this book honestly.
For you, for Oasis, or anything that you are doing. I appreciate that, though.
JL: Honestly, I mean when I said your book [The Gauntlet]. Because here’s the thing: when people know about the book, that’s my job. In the Bible it says that the foundations of the church are the prophets and the apostles (which I have both those gifts battling each other!). And together we are God’s house. The issue with the church is that once the house is built, the foundations aren’t visible. And prophets and apostles have spent so much time being visible that they’re creating neighborhoods that are nothing but foundations. And the church isn’t growing because prophets and apostles want to be visible now. Where once the house is built, you can’t see the foundations. So, in order for me to be successful, for my church to be successful, I got to have nothing that I’m trying to promote. I got to have nothing that I’m trying to be seen . . . so that’s why when I say your book: I’m promoting the people. You’re driving past the neighborhood, you don’t see the foundation. I’m underneath—the sermons that I preach, the encouragement that I develop—it’s underneath the surface of your book.
Simon Sinek wrote a book Leaders Eat Last. It’s a great book. And I think that once everybody that I’m leading gets where they’re supposed to be, you’ll probably be able to ask me that question, and I’ll be able to tell you. But I’ll be last.
That's so good; that's a perfect answer. We have covered a lot of ground. Is there anything else you want to add about leadership or say?
JL: This will be another leadership key. I’ve met a lot of leaders that are terrible fathers; I’ve never met a great father that was a terrible leader. So, at its core, the spiritual root of all leadership is fatherhood . . . so business leaders have to raise people. I don’t have employees; I have sons and daughters who get paid.
The pinnacle of all leadership is fatherhood.
That is so theological, but also so true when you break it down. The best coaches love their players, encourage them, and challenge them.
JL: Father figures. You will never find a great father who is a bad leader, but you will find plenty of great leaders who are bad fathers. You will never find a great father who is a bad leader. It’s actually impossible.
So, be a great mentor. Be a great spiritual father to someone else. Be a great natural father. Be a great dad, and you’re gonna be a great leader. I’m honestly focused on being a great dad, and it’s expanded my leadership. By being a great dad at home, it’s expanded my leadership. Crazy!
Bro, this is going to help a lot of people!
JL: C'mon, brother!
You can find me at Fogel & Potamianos LLP in Los Angeles, and you can learn more about the upcoming book The Guantlet: 5 Keys for Unlocking Success in Leadership.