Bill, founder of Willow Creek Community Church, Willow Creek Association and the annually hosted Leadership Summit, began his opening talk reminding us that "whenever a leader gets better, everyone wins."
Getting better requires commitment.
Early in his talk, Bill underscored the value of humility of the leader. The leader cannot grow, develop or improve without humility. When humility is embraced, we can learn from anyone - anyone.
Humility creates vulnerability, an openness to admit: "I don't know it all. I must learn from others.
Tracing his own childhood journey to pinpoint the occasion when he first thought he might be a leader, Bill challenged the Summit crowds to consider who, in our lives, had the most influence toward leadership early in our own life.
It was easy and quick for me to identify the few people who had early influence on my leadership journey: J.B. Haley, Grandma Lehr (not my grandma), and my mother. I accepted Bill's challenge to email them, send them a letter, make a phone call of gratitude. So, Mom, yes - expect a letter soon.
Younger leaders need me, they need you, they need us - to speak life into them, to call out the power of their influence, to affirm their worth.
Bill then turned to an all-too-real challenge of leading in an era of growing divisiveness and disrespect - for leadership, for peer workers, for subordinates.
The change has to start with me. Do I really believe that every human being has God-infused value? Do I show respect to every human being, all the time? Do I follow the following outlined by Bill?
Leaders must model respect for everyone around us:
- Differ with others without demonizing them.
- Engage spirited conversations without drawing blood.
- Do not interrupt. Listen.
- Limit volume levels and refuse to use incendiary, belittling words.
- Be courteous in word and deed.
- Never ever stereotype.
- Apologize immediately when wrong.
- Form opinions carefully and stay open-minded to better or different information.
- Show up when say will show and do what charged to do.
- Set Rules of Respect for everyone they lead and enforce it.
How am I doing? How are you doing?
Bill's next focus was the issue leadership succession. This is a relevant topic to me, to our own leadership. Boiled down to the simple - not easy - bottom-line, it is this: Succession must occur for the sake of the leader. The value to the leader is to explore, understand and embrace what is next. What is the next season? What wonder and significance is to be found in the "next?"
The succession process is The process requires extensive planning, open communication, a lot of prayer and clarity. Deadlines must be set to drive the process.
Considering that every season in the life of the leader matters, Bill outlined the following challenge:
Spend 15 minutes in a favorite spot and read and reflect on my life. Pray. Surrender.
Particularly for marketplace leaders, make this year a "grander" year by picking up a cause in the community. Serve.
Measure the health of the staff culture of your organization. And then, lead, set the value of health.
What is my "leadership betterment" plan for the next year? Have I mapped it out? What am I reading? To whom am I listening to learn?
Am I working as hard at leading at home as I am in my ministry, business, organizational leadership.
I'm leaving this session asking myself...
- Am I respectful to everyone in my life? Does my sense of being right override my willingness to listen and learn?
- Who are the young leaders around me? How will I call the best out of them?
- To what extent am I living in a way that others decide to model their leadership after me?
WHAT ABOUT YOU?