Some Thoughts After the Global Leadership Summit

Spent the last two days with some other leaders in our church at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. We went to the simulcast at Gulf Breeze UMC in Gulf Breeze, FL. First, I want to give kudos to the GBUMC staff for doing an excellent job again this year hosting the event. We had a power outage yesterday morning and were told by Gulf Power that it would be 90 minutes or more to restore power. The tech team worked frantically, and managed to restore a feed for us with a generator, a cell phone and some speakers. We only missed about 30 minutes of Bill Hybels’ opening message. They got a DVD of that opening message overnighted to them and they showed it in its entirety during the lunch hour today. That, along with the exceptional hospitality and comfortable environment, made the experience well worth it. Great job guys and gals!!

Now, for a brief recap of some of the highlights.

Day 1

Hybels’ opening talk was super – as usual. His challenge to us to insist on excellence, develop a fantastic team and to remember to refill the vision bucket was inspiring and informative.

Jim Collins reminded us to preserve the core AND to stimulate progress. He also emphasized that humility is the key ingredient in GREAT leadership.

Christine Caine was inspiring. Her heart for the broken was clearly evident in her talk and her personal story of triumph over abuse and sexism was certainly important for women everywhere who may feel a call to ministry, but feel that they are restricted from serving God because of their past or their gender.

Tony Dungy’s interview with Craig Groeschel was a good way to start the afternoon. I have a great deal of respect for Tony as a leader a coach and a man of God. I appreciated his emphasis on mentoring. He talked about his unorthodox coaching style and how many of those in the profession told him he would never get guys to play for him if he led from a place of quiet strength. He persevered and reminded us that “stubbornness is a virtue … when you’re right.”

Adam Hamilton our token Methodist got the task of handling probably the most difficult subject at the Summit. He talked about failure in leadership. I appreciated his emphasis upon grace and his 5 R’s for resisting temptation.

I regret that I did not listen too much of Dr. Xiao talk. I tried to stay with him, but found myself zoning out at about the 15 minute mark. I excused myself and went to the resource room to get a soda and buy Bill Hybels’ book The Power of a Whisper.

Andy Stanley wrapped the day up with a good talk on leveraging tension in an organization for growth. I think that I agree with him in principle, but I think I would need him to unpack his thesis a bit more in order to understand exactly where he was headed. He noted that there are some problems that shouldn’t be solved and some tensions that shouldn’t be resolved. Unfortunately, I cannot see the value in allowing problems and tensions to remain in place in the system. No matter how well we attempt to “manage” the problem (see Daniel Pink’s thoughts on management below for an alternate perspective) their will still be unhappy parties on one or both sides, and, I believe, the problem or tension will slowly eat away at the morale of the team.

Day 2

Note: We did not stay for the second the last three sessions so I have nothing to report on Welch, Jakes or Hybels’ closing remarks.

The morning started off with a powerful dramatic/technological wake-up call reminding us all of our brokenness. This was followed by a powerful video about our search to belong and our need to serve.

Jeff Manion then gave a very inspiring message on “The Land Between.” His message was taken primarily from an episode in Numbers Chapter 11 when Moses and the children of Israel found themselves in the land between Egypt and Canaan. Manion taught us that the land between is fertile ground for:
1. complaint
2. emotional meltdown
3. provision
4. discipline
5. transformational growth
Manion is a passionate speaker and I was deeply moved by his words.

Terri Kelly was then interviewed. She talked about the success of her company W.L. Gore and Associates. The company is structured differently than most, resisting a top-down hierarchical structure and embracing a core-value, team-based approach to leadership. Kelly emphasized the importance that everyone in the company understands that they play a significant part in the success of the organization.

Daniel Pink’s message was very interesting and enlightening, highlighted by the reality that he may be the first person to ever say “frickin’” from the Willow Creek stage. Pink talked about motivation and how top-down, managerial attempts (sticks and carrots he calls it) to motivate workers doesn’t work effectively when it comes to complex, cognitive tasks. His emphasis was upon motivation through autonomy, mastery and purpose. If workers are given freedom to develop their skills and feel that they have something important to offer, they will be motivated to do a good job.

Blake Mycoskie was the last speaker that we heard. He was interviewed by Darren Whitehead and the focus of the interview was on Blake’s for-profit organization, Tom's Shoes. The company was birthed because of a radical idea that Blake had about giving a pair of shoes to children around the world who go without shoes every day and who develop oftentimes fatal diseases because of sores on their feet. This passion drove him to create Tom’s Shoes. The premise is that if someone buys a pair of shoes, Tom’s gives a pair of shoes to someone in the world who doesn’t have shoes. Giving was at the heart of this message and it was truly inspiring.

Overall, I thought the Summit was really good this year. I was pleased with the amount of spiritual focus that the team opted to go with. The 2008 Summit (the last one I attended) was loaded with leaders from the business and political world with a disproportionate amount of time allocated to church leaders. I felt that this year had a better balance. I found myself being both inspired spiritually by Cain, Hamilton and Manion and then challenged with innovative ideas from Collins, Pink and Mycoskie.

Well worth the investment.


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