Three years ago I went to my first Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit (GLS). I was supposed to go along to two days but because of a family tragedy I only made the first day. Still, it was a brilliant event and I promised to go back.
Three years later and I’ve now been to my second GLS. It was equally brilliant to the first one. Once again, I only made the first day, but it was planned this time.
Thoughts on event organisation
The Summit is held at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago, USA. The content is then recorded, packaged and distributed to over 90 countries. Each location runs as its own event with the speaker programme appearing on the screen.
The first event I attended in Southampton was more participatory than this session at Gold Hill. In Southampton we sang with the band and were encouraged to clap each video (sounds strange but you get into it). After each session we were encouraged to gather into small groups (even those of us that had come on our own) to process what had been presented.
Gold Hill had a band, but we watched them as much as we joined in and clapping the videos only started to happen in the afternoon. Those that had come in groups were not encouraged to welcome those who had come on their own, so one of the things I appreciated about this event was missing.
We saw five speakers during the course of the day. These are my reflections on what they had to say.
Bill Hybels talked about leadership challenges.
He started by sharing how Willow Creek had engaged a outside firm to measure the engagement of their staff team. The results were above average, 50% engagement. But there was also a comment from one team member, claiming their experience was like being a ‘Grunt’ that hurt the church leadership. That wasn’t the working culture they wanted.
As an Exec team they wanted to change the culture. In order to do this they had to own the change. It couldn’t be outsourced to a personnel dept.
Along with this is the belief that managers should be trained. Even those to whom the skill comes naturally. If you have responsibility for people you should be trained to full fill tan responsibility well.
Twice a year they meet to discuss staff performance (review). At this point they ask what traits should ‘stop’, what things should ‘start’ and what needs to ‘continue’.
There is also an intention to resolve relational conflict. This can be tough and draining, but needs to be done.
On the question of developing emerging leaders, five steps were noted.
- Put them in high challenging roles
- Assign them to a short term task force
- Real time feedback
- Coaching and mentoring
- Classroom teaching
Carly Fiorina spoke on the challenge of Defining Leadership
She said a lot of things that made me think. A few of them include:
- The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential of others
- Management is the production of acceptable results within known constraints and conditions; leadership changes the conditions
- Leaders are made, not born
- A love of God makes leadership easier
She also gave a framework for leading and changing conditions.
It’s then up to the leader to consider each of these areas and decide if they are working well, or whether they could be improved.
Susan Cain talked about The Power of Introverts
The basics of what Susan said at the GLS can be seen in her TED talk (currently 9 million views and growing).
She encouraged us to think about our working environments and whether they were geared up for extroverts or introverts, and whether this was matching the needs of the people in that environment. Do we need to make adjustments?
She also commented that the development of ideas are often best produced out of solitary time, rather than group work.
Consider how many times you’ve been asked to brainstorm as a group. Susan’s argument, evidenced by the science, was that we would do better to have more time working in solitude.
Should we try…
- Ending constant group work
- Forget networking, focus on service
- Restore quiet to our culture
- Rethink what makes a ‘natural’ leader
Ivan Satyavarata spoke on the Power Paradox
He put it like this, ‘A leader must be able to wield power in order to lead effectively. On the other hand, she or he must, at the same time, be genuinely meek, vulnerable and even powerless’.
The three areas he focussed on were,
Knowledge – do we hold on to knowledge to protect our power or share it freely?
People – do we love and empower them without using the relationship to manipulate or control them?
Kingdom – do we confront evil, even being patient and resolute when it seems unconquerable?
I came away inspired and challenged, which I guess was the point. The GLS is certainly one of the best leadership events I’ve been to and I wish I had the money to invest in more of the resources they proved.
That said – Bill Hybels puts classroom teaching in the mix of how you train and develop leaders, but it’s not his number one pick. You could sit in talk after talk and make endless notes but it wouldn’t make you a good leader. The essence is actually doing something, leading, gaining experience and learning from what you do.
Time to stop blogging and get on