Key Takeaways from the Leadership Summit

A few days ago, I had the privilege of attending the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. Every year, the Willow Creek Association organizes a leadership conference and brings in leaders from the church, business, political and entertainment worlds. Since this was my fourth summit, I had a good idea of what to expect. I expected to learn some new leadership concepts and be stretched in my thinking.  Here are some of the key takeaways from the sessions I attended…

Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church gave the first talk and spoke about a vision to die for. He shared that too often a senior leader goes off on his own and develops a long term vision for the organization. The problem with this approach is that if the followers in the organization are not involved in the vision formation and refinement, they will not own the vision.

In the next session, Hybels interviewed Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP. Before this session, I didn’t think I would get a lot out of this interview. I’m happy to have been wrong. I appreciated her honesty about her departure from HP. Some of the other things that I appreciated about her talk were…

Every time you overcome a fear, you get stronger.
Leadership is about seeing and unlocking the potential in others.
You have the opportunity to learn from everything and everyone.
There is a gift in everything.

I enjoyed Marcus Buckingham’s talk about building on strengths and managing around weaknesses. This is a challenge for me. In the past, I spent too much time on my weaknesses and not enough time on my strengths. Buckingham challenged the audience to figure out what they love and what they loath.

There was a lot of good information that was given by Colin Powell as Hybels was interviewing him. Here are some key takeaways:

You should spend only one-third of the time on a task or project and then let the team work on executing it with the remaining two-thirds of the time.
Be prepared to disappoint people
Check ego at the door
Things look better in the morning
Trust the element of instinct
Be prepared to be lonely

I was challenged by John Ortberg’s talk on the leader’s greatest fear. He spoke about the public mission of a person, church, organization, etc. vs. their shadow mission. The shadow mission is very similar to public mission, but the shadow mission is more about your secret desires, not about God’s desires. Ortberg gave the example of what could be the shadow mission of his church, “We are a successful church for successful people.” I wonder how many church leaders at the summit were convicted by those words. I certainly was.

I wasn’t able to attend the Saturday session, so the last session I attended was Hybels’ interview with movie director, Richard Curtis. This turned out to be the most powerful moment for me at the summit. But it wasn’t even because of anything that Curtis said. It was a video clip of a little girl in a slum in India getting ready to sleep on a side of a busy street as people were walking by. I have a 7 year old girl and that girl could have been my daughter. After watching that image, I wrote the following words in my notes, “I need to do something for the poor.” I have no idea what to do, but I know that God is calling me to something. I am doing very little right now, but God has blessed me with the resources to do so much more. I’ll be taking some time to pray about what to do specifically, but I know I have do something. I’ll keep you posted.

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Key Takeaways from the Leadership Summit

2 thoughts on “Key Takeaways from the Leadership Summit

  1. nhb says:

    I was recently challenged by someone to figure out my shadow mission…I’ve been reading John Ortberg’s book and talked with a couple of people that were at the Summit.
    Googling shadow mission lead me here. It’s quite a challenge to look at one’s self with an open heart and wonder if what motivates one’s self isn’t the real mission but some other secret desire.
    I hope everyone was as challenged by John Ortberg.

  2. sunnythomas says:

    Thanks for the comment. I haven’t picked up Ortberg’s book yet but will do so soon. I suggest that you pick up the DVD or CD of Ortberg’s talk at the Summit if you haven’t done so already. I’d also suggest that you pick up the Going Deeper CD that Ortberg produced with Willow Creek. As the title suggests, Ortberg talks about shadow mission in greater detail. I’ve enjoyed listening to it.

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