Leadership Summit First Day: A Bad Day for Elephants
Today is day two of the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit. Yesterday was one of the better days, Summit wise, that I have been a part of… but it was a bad day for the elephant in the room. Over the course of the day Bill Hybels, Jim Collins, and Groeschel touched on a couple of the elephant in the room issues currently going on in the church world, and did it well. Here is what I took away from the first day of the Summit.
This was a slightly different Bill Hybels than what I am used to seeing. Instead of the hard-charging, gung-ho, take the next hill Hybels, I got the sense that Bill realizes that he is coming to the end of his run, he is embracing that sense, and because of his position he knows he needs to model this well. There was also a bit of cantankerousness that I hadn’t noticed before… I get the sense that Bill is going to resemble Jack Welch in his retirement. Here are some of the nuggets I took from him this morning:
- Willow Creek is experimenting more now, than ever before. They are trying new ways to sow more seed to impact lives with the gospel. They realize that they don’t have it figured out. Bill also dropped this line on the crowd: “whether you like it or not, your entire organization takes its seed sowing cues from you.” Yeah, soak that one in for a little while.
- God did not make you a leader to respond to stuff all day. He made you a leader in order to move stuff ahead. That said, our most important asset, or skill, as leaders is our ability to energize others. Who are you energizing in order to move ministry ahead?
- The bottom end of his talk was pretty personal, and very frank. Willow Creek is in the midst of succession planning. After speaking a little bit about the process, he went on to say to the crowd that the hardest part of ministry is not the beginning, or the end, but the middle. In the middle, when we can’t see the beginning or the end, we need to be far more intentional about our disciplines, and our focus on Christ… or else distractions will wreck us.
I was struck by Condoleeza’s grace, poise, and intelligence. After her talk, Hybels asked her if she would consider the presidency, to which she said she did not have the wiring to be elected. Her response makes me wonder if our system isn’t seriously flawed. Three things I took from Condoleeza Rice:
- Today’s headlines and history’s judgement are rarely the same.
- Referring to Omar al-Bashir, the most dangerous world leader she encountered: someone who is willing to do almost anything to get their way is dangerous.
- People in positions of leadership need a truth-teller in their lives.
Jim Collins talk was much the same as the one I had heard at Catalyst, back in October. That said, he really got me thinking through some things… and he built upon some of Hybels’ succession planning talk. Here are my big take aways:
- The signature of mediocrity in an organization is chronic inconsistency.
- The greatest danger for any organization is not failure, but not knowing why you were successful in the first place.
- Your organization needs to be strong so that you can be there when someone shows up at your door in need.
- This last one was pretty significant for me: An organization is not truly great if it can’t be great without you (the senior leader).
Marc Keilburger and Sheryl WuDunn
Marc Keilburger is co-founder of Free the Children and Me to We: two Canadian based non-profits focused on helping children develop a social conscience. His big idea was that kids don’t suddenly turn eighteen and develop a social conscience. With this in mind, what are we pouring into the next generation?
Sheryl WuDunn spoke about how the empowerment of women is this centuries biggest challenge. The one thing that I can not shake from her talk is how slave costs have gone down over the last few centuries. Slaves in certain parts of the world can now be purchased for $150-$200… which makes them as disposable as a microwave oven.
Groeschel went after a topic that I have been thinking a good bit about over the last several months: the generational divide in the church. He did it as a guy who is firmly rooted in the middle of the age spectrum, speaking to both groups with equal frankness. He also modeled what it looks like for a younger pastor to honor his mentors far better than I have ever seen. Three take-aways from his talk on how to have the generations work well together:
- Develop intentional feedback loops that include all generations.
- Create specific mentoring moments that allow you to mentor and be mentored. He then challenged us not to copy what our mentors do, but to learn how they think.
- Create opportunities for significant leadership development within the next generation. As you do this, be careful not to delegate tasks as that creates followers, but delegate authority, which creates leaders.
Day one was intense, and I am excited to see what day two holds…
What rang YOUR bell at the Summit?