CNLP 183: Todd Wilson on Lessons from the Nuclear Navy and What the World’s Best Engineers Can Teach Church Leaders or Any Leader About Leadership

At age 20, Todd Wilson (now President of Exponential), joined the Nuclear Navy. What he learned there were some of the top leadership lessons anyone could glean.

Todd shares his top five learnings with us, and shares how his experience in the nuclear navy shaped his thinking about leadership development and multiplication with Exponential and beyond.

Welcome to Episode 183 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Guest Links

Todd on Facebook | InstagramTwitter | |

CNLP 111: How to Find Your True Calling – An Interview with Exponential’s Todd Wilson

Links Mentioned

Rethink Leadership in Atlanta Georgia, April 25-27th 2018

The Canadian Church Leaders Conference, Barrie Ontario, June 14-16th 2018

TrainedUp Use coupon code CAREY and receive 10% off for life!

CNLP 077: What Near Death Experiences Tell Us About the Biblical Heaven: An Interview with John Burke

3 Insights from This Episode

1. Leaders need to know how to manage in addition to leading

Decades ago, churches seemed to operate with a greater focus on management more so than in today’s current climate. But has the switch to leadership-based systems created a generation of leaders who no longer know how to manage? It’s as if a formula has been defined that implies management and leadership are inversely proportional – “the more you lead, the less you manage” and “the more you manage the less you lead.” But it shouldn’t be a matter of either/or. A great leader has the ability to do both.

2. Risk equals the probability of something happening times the consequences of something happening

Often organizations get consumed with problems and consequences – frozen by a what if way of thinking that loses sight of what the realistic worst case scenarios actually are.

Risk equals the probability of something happening multiplied by the consequence of it happening. So, if you have something that has super high probability, the consequence may not be high risk. But when probability and consequence are both high – that’s when it’s time to pay attention to things.

Consider adopting this Risk = Probability X Consequence formula into your leadership practices. Avoiding a hyper-cautious, worrisome mindset could be empowering for your team.  

3. 6 Keys to Avoiding Outcome Based Leadership

  1. No news isn’t necessarily good news. 
  2. Know the difference in these 2 approaches: Assume it’s wrong and prove it’s right vs Assume it’s right and prove it’s wrong.
  3. Challenge assumptions and continuously ask why.
  4. Start with the end in mind.
  5. Know what’s actually going on vs how things should be going on.
  6. Understand the why by working on causes, not the symptoms.

Quotes from This Episode

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Next Episode: Brian Houston  

In a candid, personal and powerful conversation, Brian Houston talks about how Hillsong attracts and keeps great leaders, how he stays healthy as a leader, how he battled back from burnout a few years ago, and even shares his message prep process with us.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 184.


  1. Jordan Davis on March 20, 2018 at 10:06 am

    I’m looking for a good website, blog, book, or something on management. How to be a good manager… Skills of a good manager… what management looks like as a leader… etc. Any recommendations?

    • Tracy Buller on March 27, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Check out Sam Walker’s book The Captain Class. He identifies 7 qualities of those who can drive their teams to success in a more managerial role.

  2. […] Todd Wilson On Lessons From The Nuclear Navy And What The World’s Best Engineers Can Teach Church … on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Todd is a really smart guy. If you’re into leadership development, this is a great listen. […]

  3. Larry on March 14, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Hello Carey, loves the lessons from Todd Wilson. I’ve been in management for over 30 years. What a refresher to be able to take this to my ministry. Please, keep up the great work and I pray that God continues to bless you. Almost like that song goes, “starting all over again and it’s gonna be great”.

  4. Jeff Ward on March 13, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Hey Carey – I don’t have the time to listen and it’s not my most effective learning style anyway. Do you have complete transcripts of the episodes? That would be excellent however!

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