Today I would like to continue sharing some of my thoughts on what I heard and learned at Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit. Tomorrow I will share some overall thoughts on the Willow Creek Association (which can be somewhat differentiated from the Willow Creek Community Church) and on the Global Leadership Summit.
I was especially looking forward to Friday as it included one of my favorite preachers, John Ortberg. I have always appreciated his teaching ability and style. Although I have noted that my preaching professor would have found fault with his presentation–he reads too much leading to poor eye contact and he finishes his statements weakly by looking down–but other than that he is fine.
The day started with Patrick Lencioni who may have been tied with Craig Groeschel for the title of highest energy speaker. Interestingly Lencioni is an unabashed Christian in the business consulting world. While his work is primarily focused on the business world–most if not all of his positive examples were about Southwest Airlines–he easily adapts his work to the church because he is a Christian first and a business man second. The main focus of Lencioni's talk was about the importance of organizational health. In Lencioni's view there are two main factors for an organization or business. There is Organizational Smarts and Organizational Health.
Organizational Smarts includes things like strategy, marketing, finance and other "business school" stuff. In Lencioni's view it is only half of the business equation and yet receives 98% of the focus because it is easier and more quantifiable. Organizational Health is hard work yet can make the difference between a highly successful organization and one that crashes and burns. A healthy organization is one that has minimal internal politics and confusion; had high moral and productivity; and has a low turnover of key leadership personnel. Ironically while Organizational Smarts receives so much focus it takes good Organizational Health to fully tap into all of an organizations smarts.
The next two speakers–William Ury and Pranitha Timothy–were very interesting but I didn't take too much away in terms of applicable leadership skills. They had great stories to tell but were a bit weak on practical application. I did find Pranitha Timothy's stories of having the courage to lead in very difficult situations to be moving. It is one thing to claim to lead an organization through a difficult time. But it is a whole different thing to lead an organization that rescues slaves from forced labor in India. Every time she goes out on a rescue mission she may not come back. She has faced irate and armed business owners that will stop at almost nothing to keep their slaves. The next time I have to face a difficult situation in leadership I need to remember that I could be facing much worse.
Pastor Mario Vega then spoke about the need for integrity in leadership and the difficulty that we can face when we are trying to navigate through the tough consequences of leaders that lack integrity. There were three points that he made that stuck with me. The first is that when we allow a little moral failure into our lives we are opening the door for further moral failure. Once we start justifying small things it becomes easier to justify big things. The second is that, as leaders, we are not just responsible for our own actions but we are also responsible for the actions of those leaders below us. And the third is that there are defining moments in leadership that reveal our inner character. There is an absolute need for us to model and demand integrity.
The next session started with John Ortberg. What was interesting about Ortberg's talk was that it was not meant to be a talk giving leadership principles. Rather it was one of the greatest apologetics for Christ and the goodness that has resulted in the world due to his teaching and his followers. I cannot wait to read his new book: Who Is This Man.
The session concluded with an interview with Geoffrey Canada. He was so interesting that I ended up fixated on the discussion and didn't take any notes. One of his key leadership principles that he shared was the importance of replacing poor workers as soon as possible. He noted that they can be very hard working and very likable but just may not be a good fit for the position. These are tough but necessary decisions to make.
Bill Hybels closed out the Summit talking about integrity which he has done in almost every Summit that I have been to. Integrity on all fronts may be the most important attribute of a leader especially leaders in the church.
It was a good learning experience and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. We were blessed by the music of Gungor and Kevin Olusola throughout the Summit which just added to the overall experience.