Chattanooga Rev. Brandon Gilvin shares his best business habit

Photography by Olivia Ross / Rev. Brandon Gilvin, senior minister of First Christian Church–Disciples of Christ in Chattanooga

Rev. Brandon Gilvin has served as senior minister of First Christian Church–Disciples of Christ in Chattanooga since 2015. He is a native of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, holds a degree in religious studies and creative writing from Hiram College, and a master of divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Ordained since 2002, Gilvin has served congregations in Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri; ecumenical organizations based in Nairobi, Kenya and Toronto; and has served with disaster response and sustainable development ministries through the Christian Church–Disciples of Christ and Church World Service. He's also written two books on religion and popular literature, and co-edited books on religion and politics and faith-based disaster response.

What is your best business habit?

Mine is two-fold: Invest in the people you work with and be open to a "third way." I don't believe in trickle-down style. It's a "lead with" style. I believe in recognizing peoples' gifts and giving them a chance to live into those gift and explore their talents. That's how I've been able to get most effective team work -- empowering others to explore, experiment, develop new skills.

How did you discover or develop it?

Working in faith communities, it is incredible what you learn about the people you build relationships with. You learn pretty quickly that people have astounding gifts--skills, ideas, experience and insight--and they want to use them to change the world for the better. Sometimes all it takes is a question or a nudge.

Early on in my career, a mentor gave me a copy of Ronald Heifetz's "Leadership Without Easy Answers." It was a perfect book for learning how to turn one's creativity into a leadership skill. The biggest lesson I gleaned was that the best solution to a problem, resolution to a conflict, or way forward for your team is to not choose from the conventional options, but to be creative and forge a new, different path.

How has it improved your work and/or personal life?

Many leadership issues are deeply moral issues. Listening to the people who are impacted by the work I'm doing (even down to the words I use) has helped me aspire to be just, humane and fair in ways that I might have missed if I had not sought wisdom from other places.

We're also in a place as a faith community where we're learning how to navigate a very different "post-COVID" world. We can't go back to "how things were," so being in the habit of looking for a "third way" has prepared me to accompany First Christian into some new habits and practices as a church.

How might others apply it?

I'm fond of how the sitcom character Ted Lasso sums it up: "Be curious, not judgmental." Ask questions and do the deep listening with the people you work with and serve. Don't dismiss the unconventional answer until you consider just how beneficial it might be. Don't be afraid to be creative.


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