6 Insights I learned at the 2016 Willow Creek Leadership Summit

This year our church took over 55 to attend Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit at our local video venue in London, Ontario. As usual, I came away with many great leadership insights. In this post I summarize my top 6 learnings.

What I learned at this year’s Willow Creek Leadership Summit:

  1. The lens of leadership.
    • Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow, taught the first session of the day. He’s always super. He used eyeglasses as word pictures to describe these 4 different lens of leadership:
      • passion lens (self explanatory)
      • shattered lens (an unhealthy view of leadership)
      • performance lens (we have to get stuff done)
      • legacy lens (what we will leave behind)
    • The ‘passion’ lens insight stood out to me the most. He said that passion can be fueled by our dreams or even our defeats (lessons we learn about what does not work or lessons learned through failure). He also said that it’s our job to fill our passion bucket.
    • This statement profoundly impacted me: There are no do overs in leadership but there are makeovers.
  2. Culture mapping.
    • Erin Meyer, a professor at a university in France, and author of The Culture Map, gave a fascinating talk about her innovative research on how cultures differ in several ways. She has isolated eight different dimensions that any organization involved in cross-cultural work needs to understand.
    • In her talk she unpacked the communication dimension which was amazing. Since our church has three different language expressions in three different congregations, I will definitely delve more into her insights.
  3. The one thing to get right: add value to people.
    • John Maxwell spoke on this subject. I’ve heard John speak before and read many of his books. But it’s been a while since I’ve heard him. When he started speaking, I felt like a wise uncle was  in my living room sharing sage advice with me. I had heard his theme of ‘add value’ to people before, but it was refreshing to hear it again.
    • Several gems stood out.
  4. The power of vision.
    • In this session Jossy Chacko who leads a ministry that has a goal of planing 100,000 churches (they planted an average of 11 per day in 2015), challenged us about true vision. Here are some of his nuggets.
      • Some people are vision poppers.
      • A passionary leader is a passionate leader with great vision.
      • Risk is a friend to love not an enemy to be feared.
      • Real vision is hinged to the door of risk.
      • View comfort and safety as enemies to vision.
      • Don’t try to work out all the details of your vision before you do anything.
      • See the heavenly possibilities instead of human limitations.
      • Leadership capacity is proportional to your pain threshold.
      • Some of the world’s greatest ideas lie in the grave (because some people were too afraid to pursue their vision).
  5. What to look for in a potential leader.
    • Patrick Lencioni has been a Summit favorite for years, and for good reason. He brings great stuff. At this session he summarized his latest book, The Ideal Team Player, in which he suggests three key character qualities that make, well, the ideal team player: humble, hungry, and smart.
    • I loved this insight about humility. Humility is thinking about yourself less, not thinking less about yourself.

      He then described the person with different combinations of only two of these qualities, really interesting stuff. Definitely a good book to pick up.

  6. Bonus insight.
    • Wilfredo De Jesus (pastor of the largest Assembly of God Church in the U.S.) closed out the Summit with a powerful call for the Church to be the Church. Some of his standout quotes included these:

I’m glad I attended this year’s Summit. I plan to read several of the speakers’ books and our team will meet soon for a debrief/action plan session.

If you attended the Summit, I’d love to hear the insights that stood out to you?

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4 Traits of the World’s Second Greatest Leader

I believe Jesus was the world’s greatest leader. I would call the Apostle Paul the world’s second greatest leader because he wrote much of the New Testament and because he spread Christianity into the the west through his missionary journeys. The book of Acts details much of those early missionary journeys. Acts 16 describes four traits that Christian leaders should emulate.

In chapter 16 Paul, Silas, Timothy, and later Luke visited some of the churches they had visited/founded before. Their journey included several roadblocks, a vision, a meeting with a wealthy business woman, an exorcism, flogging, jail (and a miraculous release from jail), and several conversions.

On this amazing journey, four crucial leadership behaviors stand out that a healthy Christian leader should build into his or her leadership.

A healthy Christian leader…

  1. …tries to make every encounter he or she has with others benefit the other person.
    • Everywhere Paul went he made emotional, spiritual, and relational deposits into the lives of others. After people spent time with Paul, they were better people. Acts 15-16 describe Paul as strengthening the brothers, strengthening the churches, and encouraging people.
    • Great leaders make positive deposits into the lives of others. I once heard someone say that there are three kinds of people: VIP’s, VNP’s, and VDP’s. VIP’s are very important people, the kind who make deposits in you. VNP’s are very nice people. They neither hurt not help you. VDP’s are very draining people. They feel like emotional vacuum cleaners that seem to suck the life out of you.
    • Healthy Christian leaders are known as VIP’s. 
  2. …balances his approach to discerning God’s will.
    • As Paul began this missionary journey, we see four inputs that influenced how he discerned God’s will about the direction his journey should take. In much of life God gives us wide latitude with His will. But some weighty decisions require extra effort to discern it. That’s when multiple inputs can increase our confidence that we are making the right choice.
      • Subjective inner witness. This is when we sense God’s leading in our heart, a peace, a pull, a feeling we get after praying. Some scholars believe that when this chapter described how the Holy Spirit kept Paul from going north or south, this refers to a subjective inner witness in Paul’s heart. Paul simply may have sensed in his heart not go north or go south.
      • Circumstances: Another reason God closed these doors may have been Paul’s health. Since Luke, a doctor, joined them part way through, other scholars surmise that Paul’s health was the reason behind the closed doors. He physically could not make those trips. God will use circumstances, both closed doors and open doors to direct us to His will. Sometimes he says No and sometimes He says Go
      • Reflection: Paul certainly thought a lot about the closed and open doors he faced. God expects us to think clearly and use our minds to weigh options before us. God never intends Christians to check their brains at the door.
      • Collaboration: This means that we invite wise people into our lives to help us weigh our options. Sometimes we simply need objectivity from another to help us discern God’s will. In Paul’s case he had Silas, Timothy, and Luke with whom to dialogue about which direction to go.
  3. …looks for opportunities to have spiritual conversations with others.
    • When Paul would enter a city he’d first go to the synagogue to share the gospel. In the city of Philippi, however, none existed. But places of prayer where spiritual minded people gathered did. Paul sought out such a place. When he arrived, he met a woman named Lydia, a successful business woman. Through conversations with Paul, she became a Christian.
    • Paul also lead two other people to faith on that same journey. He was always looking for opportunities to have spiritual conversations with others.
  4. …faces difficulty with grace.
    • In one city Paul and Silas got thrown into jail after being beaten. Instead of whining about their condition, the Scripture says that that in the middle of the night they sang hymns to the Lord. Because they knew that God was still in charge, regardless of the outcome of their jailing, their hearts prompted them to sing, not your normal response to jail time. Paul knew how to respond to difficulty with grace.

So, Paul the leader models for us some behaviors and attitudes we too should build into our leadership lives. We never know who might be looking to us for an example of how to honor Christ in life and leadership.

What other qualities would you add to this list that leaders should build into their lives?

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How do Discover your Leadership Vibe in 10 Minutes

I love to read. As a life-long learner I learn from others’ writings and I believe integrous writers should always give generous attribution to authors whose ideas they embrace or write about. That’s why I often reference my ideas as I do here. Some time back I read Do More Great Work by Michael Stanier. It’s a short but good read. Stanier takes the reader through simple exercises that helps him clarify when he is at his best. In my case, I read the book with an eye to discover when I lead at my best. One exercise helps leaders discover their leadership vibe.

Stander suggests that leaders spend some time to choose words that best describe themselves when they are at their best. I did the exercise and found it very helpful. For example, some of those words for me included poised, reflective, and focused.

The next step, however, made this exercise stand out. After I picked about 20 words and narrowed them to a dozen or so I then wrote opposite each word a contrasting word that would describe me when I’m not quite myself. I didn’t necessarily choose words opposite in meaning but ones more anemic in contrast to the others. Opposed to the three words above I chose diplomatic, distant, and intense.

When I chose the contrasting words it helped clarify even better my leadership vibe, that state of leadership toward which I need to aim.

Here’s the list that contrasts when I’m at my best (on the left) and when I’m just ok (to the right).

  • Poised—diplomatic
  • Non-anxious—self controlled
  • Reflective—distant
  • Focused—intense
  • Clear minded—distracted
  • Relaxed—quiet
  • Undeterred—pushy
  • Unhurried—tolerant
  • Animated—talkative
  • Present—just there
  • Commanding—forceful
  • Self-aware—self focused
  • Strategic—tactical

I put this list in my file where I keep my personal mission statement and almost weekly I review it. These contrasting words remind me to seek to live them out as I lead and relate to others.

Take 10 minutes yourself and see if this exercise does for you what it did for me.

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10 Ways Pastors Stifle Church Change

changeEinstein was right.

If we want our churches to make the greatest kingdom impact, we must help facilitate change or else we become “insane” leaders. However, we often don’t manage change wisely.

I’ve listed 10 blunders pastors can make that stifle church change.

  1. Force the change no matter who resists.
  2. Marginalize those who resist change.
  3. Don’t tolerate anything less than 100% success.
  4. Blame others when the change doesn’t go well.
  5. Bring about change as fast as you can before the people realize what just happened.
  6. Don’t listen to others who disagree.
  7. Assume that silence in others means they are on board with you.
  8. Don’t listen to your spouse.
  9. Don’t admit ANY fear.
  10. What would you add as a tenth?

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