Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit 2011 – My Review
Two days. Eight sessions. Fourteen speakers. Add it up and it equals a full force fire hose of insanely valuable guidance and advice for today’s church and business leaders.
As I start to write this a day later, I still feel worn out from trying to keep up with it all. More than that, though, I feel so challenged. That’s the one word that I can’t stop repeating when people ask me about the summit. Challenged.
I’m going to do a quick review of my notes here. There is no way I could capture every amazing moment from both days. I’m just going to throw down what few insights I could capture from the event between the laughter and emotion.
Sorry, but this is going to be a lot of stuff. Just be glad I didn’t take thorough notes during every session.
Opening Session – Bill Hybels
Five Critical Questions for Leaders
1. What is your current level of challenge?
- If you’re under-challenged then your to-do list is easy.
- If you’re appropriately challenged then your to-do list is hard but manageable.
- If you’re dangerously over-challenged then your to-do list continues to grow.
- You do your best work just above the level of being appropriately challenged.
- If you stay too long at the dangerously over-challenged level, then you’re drained quickly. Your quality of work quickly falls into the negative.
2. What is your plan for dealing with challenging people in you organization?
- Your future is tied to the quality of people you can attract and develop.
- How long do you tolerate a member with a bad attitude?
- How do you respond to them? How long before they are let go?
- The damage one can do when being toxic up and down the halls of your organization is massive.
- How do you handle under-performers? How long do you tolerate them?
- How do you transition a leader out of a role that the organization has grown beyond their ability to handle?
- Fantastic people don’t want to work around challenging people.
- Challenging people aren’t really happy people.
3. Are you naming, facing and resolving the problems that exist in your organization?
- Every idea your organization has goes through a life cycle:
Accelerating -> Booming -> Decelerating -> Tanking
- How do you evaluate where your organization is Decelerating or even Tanking?
How do you revitalize them?
- Don’t be a victim. Don’t be passive. Actively identify and resolve problems.
4. When was the last time you re-examined the core of what your organization is all about?
- What business are we in?
- What’s our main thing?
- Can we explain what we do on a t-shirt?
- Are we clear about our core?
5. Have you had your leadership bell rung recently?
- Has anything (book, talk, experience with God, circumstance or crisis) rocked your world?
- You job as a leader is not to preserve what exists, preside over it, or pontificate about you.
- Your job is to lead your organization from here to there.
- Will your next five years be your best five years of leadership? Why not?
Action trumps Everything – Len Schlesinger
You can’t get people to follow you ‘there’ without detailing why staying ‘here’ would be unacceptable. Destroy ‘here’ first.
Entrepreneurship goes a long way to solve the problems of the world today.
Entrepreneurship helps us create the kind of future we desire to have.
Really good entrepreneurs are good at minimizing risk.
Most entrepreneurs don’t start with a crisply defined vision.
They don’t trust predictions of the future.
They create new businesses, but they’re not original businesses.
They’re not particularly more self-confident.
Most of what you hear about entrepreneurs is all wrong.
It’s not magic, it’s a discipline and can be learned.
We are all entrepreneurs, too few of us get to practice it.
If you can’t predict the future, act. Create the future.
What’s the point of sitting and thinking in the face of the unknown?
You can’t think your way into an unknown future. You have to act.
Take small steps using the things you have at hand.
Where do you start? Start with things you care about.
What would you like to do? What first step would you like to take?
Act quickly with the means at hand.
Pay only what you can afford. Work with affordable loss.
We fear failure (and success) because we’re taught that failure means the end.
It isn’t. It’s a new beginning.
Smart people fail 60% of the time. More high potential ventures fail than succeed.
Failure doesn’t mean quit. It means start over with more experience.
More people trying to do things sooner, more often, and retrying.
Action trumping everything gives you more time at bat, which increases your chances at success.
Poke the Box – Seth Godin
The Legend of Betty Crocker – If you want to market to the masses, your product has to be average.
Mass marketing today no longer works, because our media has become so diverse and disperse.
Revolutions destroy the perfect and enable the impossible.
It’s the death of the industrial age.
We’re in the age of weird and edges. The age of tribes.
A tribe is a group of people who share a culture and a goal who want to be together.
There is an explosion of tribes. Things are changing.
What difference do you want to make?
You have that chance in this post industrial age.
There is no map for being an artist.
Competent used to be important, but today it’s no longer scarce.
We need people today to solve interesting problems.
Stop waiting to be picked. Pick yourself.
Art is a risky human act.
If failure is not an option, then neither is success.
They are two sides of the same coin.
It is impossible to do art and not fail.
The hardest part of doing something amazing, is teaching yourself to ignore the heckler in your head.
Give people gifts, don’t do them favors. Gifts, not favors.
If it’s worth doing, what are you waiting for?
Quick Notes from the Remaining Speakers on Day 1
Stand Up – Mayor Cory Booker
- Your attitude about the world speaks to your character. It’s all about character.
- What you see around you is a reflection of what you have inside of you.
- Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.
Courageous Leadership for Catalytic Times – Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil
- We need to go to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
- Jerusalem – Our home turf.
- Judea – Close to home but not quite home.
- Samaria – Those who are hostile to us.
- Really, Adam Jeske’s review of this presentation is excellent. Go and read it now.
Audacious Faith – Steven Furtick
- I can’t expect God’s blessing on my work if I don’t do it God’s way.
- If all you have are some ideas, you’re not a visionary. You’re a daydreamer. You need to have audacity.
- If the vision isn’t overwhelming to you, it’s probably insulting to God.
- Faith believes it before it sees it. Faith without works is dead.
Tough Callings – Wes Stafford, Mama Maggie Groban & Bill Hybels
I don’t have any notes from this session, but I wanted to comment on it. The major reason I didn’t write anything down was how flattened I was with the pure humility that was embodied by Mama Maggie Groban. That little old woman, with her quiet voice and servant’s heart, absolutely tore me apart. Down to the floor.
The larger point of this session was that, while we love to hear the success stories, if you’re not finding success it doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re doing isn’t important. Bill Hybels closed by discussing the book of Jeremiah. As a prophet, Jeremiah followed the calling that God put on him, but throughout it all he suffered for it. He never saw success as we would define it, but he was faithful to God.
Sometimes your vision looks impossible, but it’s the right thing to do. God doesn’t always want us to be successful, but he always wants us to be faithful.
Tim Schraeder took some excellent notes from this session, you can read them here.
The Evil, The Foolish, The Wise – Dr. Henry Cloud
What do you do when your trying to give the truth of reality to a person, and they’re allergic to reality?
“I’ve got this guy…”
Wherever you are, God has called you to be a steward over a vision.
Feedback is not that easy to hear sometimes.
Not everyone can be dealt with the same way.
Three Categories of People: (All of us have all of these parts, but we tend to camp out in one of them most of the time)
- Light -> Adjusts themselves towards the light
- Truth -> Listens and changes (Tweaks the formula)
- Wise men smile when facing changes
- “A righteous man will strike me, and it will be a blessing.” King David
- Talk to them. Talking helps. Coach them.
- The Challenge: Make sure that they are a match for what you need.
- Keep them challenged appropriately.
- Light -> Adjusts the light (hurts their eyes, they turn it away or dim it)
- Truth -> Externalizes it (shoots the messenger)
- Fools get angry when faced with changes.
- They never own their problems.
- “Do not confront or correct a fool, lest you incur insults upon yourself”
- Stop talking to them. They don’t listen, and they have stopped your vision.
- Get out of the weeds. Scale up to talk to them about their pattern.
- Assign limits to them. Limit their ability to damage your vision, and your exposure to them.
- Ask them how you can talk to them regarding their inability to be corrected.
- What will we do if I do that and you still won’t be corrected? Consequences.
- Fools can change and they can redeem their career and life.
- The Challenge: Limit your exposure. Be clear about the consequences.
- Give them a choice. Follow through.
- Have destruction in their hearts.
- “Reject a divisive person after a second warning. Have nothing to do with them.”
- Go into protection mode. (Lawyers, Guns, Money)
God has called you to lead people. Don’t let a character problem stop your mission.
Humilitas – John Dickson
Humility is not the same as humiliation. Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status and use your influence for the good of others before yourself. More simply, humility is to hold power in the service of others. Humility will not make you great, but humility makes the great greater.
Five Characteristics of Humility
1. Humility is Common Sense
- None of us is an expert at everything. Expertise in one area counts for very little in another.
- The expert must know that what they don’t know far exceeds what they do know.
2. Humility is Beautiful
- We are more attracted to the great who are humble, than the great who want everyone to know it.
- This has not always been true. In ancient Rome, humility was a negative word, it meant servitude.
- This changed in the middle of the first century. Jesus’ crucifixion. (Mark 10:43, Philippians 2:3-8)
- Everyone now admires humility, thanks entirely to the Christian tradition.
- Western culture has been profoundly shaped by the cross of Christ.
3. Humility is Generative
- Humble people are more open to learn and grow.
- Humility has been formative for scientific investigation, for business theory and practice.
- Sometimes it is the lowest dirtiest place, that you learn something that allows you to grow the most.
- Even untrue criticism can be helpful, but accurate criticism is your best friend.
4. Humility is Persuasive
- “We believe good-hearted people to a greater extent and more quickly than we do others on all subjects in general and completely so in cases where there is not exact knowledge, but rather is room for doubt.” (Aristotle – Rhetoric 1.2.4).
- The most believable person in the world is the person who you know has your best interest at heart.
5. Humility is Inspiring
- When leaders appear aloof and unapproachable, we admire them but we don’t emulate them.
- But if someone is humble and open, we feel we can be like them. They are human enough.
- Four tools of a leader: Ability, Authority, Character, Persuasion
- Some of the best leaders in history had NO authority. They had truckloads of the other three.
- You don’t need the keys to the kingdom to impact the kingdom.
- You don’t need to reclaim a Christian nation to win a nation back to Christ.
Humility is the shape of reality.
Getting Naked – Patrick Lencioni
Dictionary definition of Vulnerable:
1. capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.
2. open to attack or damage.
3. liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses…
Three fears about being vulnerable (or Naked Service)
1. Fear of Losing the Business
- We have to exercise our willingness to be rejected.
- Enter the danger. Walk right into the crazy stuff. Say and do the things that can lose relationships.
- Speak the kind truth. Both words are important, “kind” and “truth.”
2. Fear of Being Embarrassed
- When we’re serving others we have to do things that can embarrass us.
- When we risk embarrassment, people see that we’re invested in their well-being and they invite us in more deeply. When we try to manage our image, that trust can never be achieved.
- We have to celebrate our mistakes. When we celebrate our humanity, people are attracted to it.
3. Fear of Feeling Inferior
- When we take a lower position, do the dirty work, it can be so powerful.
- When it’s necessary to do the dirty work…do it.
- Honor your client’s work. Be interested in them.
Vulnerability is powerful. So be naked and honest. It builds trust. It’s rare.
There is something attractive about people that are humble and vulnerable.
It’s not easy. It involves suffering and pain. Which is why it’s so powerful.
Quick Notes from the Remaining Speakers on Day 2
Students First – Michelle Rhee
- I would much rather deal with anger than apathy.
- If you turn your head to where the yelling is the loudest, you necessarily ignore those who can’t speak for themselves.
Chasing Daylight – Erwin McManus
- We, the Church, need to become cultivators of human potential and narrators of the human story.
- There has never been an ordinary child born, but too many of us die tragically and painfully ordinary.
- There is no conflict between human talent and the glory of God.
- Sometimes the truth is lost in a bad story.
- Whoever tells the best story shapes the culture.
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