Last week I had the privilege of attending the Leadership Summit hosted by Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church. This is an excellent training event held annually in Chicago which reaches over 100,000 church and business leaders across America via satellite. Everyone wins when leaders get better. That's why leaders need to be humble enough to adopt a continual learning stance.
Here are some of my takeaways and reflections:
1. Churches need to keep sowing more and more seed (Bill Hybels).
In Luke 8, we have the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. Despite how bountifully the seed is sown, for all kinds of reasons, people are sometimes closed off to the message of the kingdom. However, the message is still true and lives will be changed. In Jesus' parable, the seed rejection ratio is 75% (3 out of 4)! To see more trees, you need to plant more seed ... to overcome the math. Sow more seed and different seed.
Sow the same amount of seed and you'll see the he same results. Leaders ... stay curious, courageous and experimental. Refuse to allow entropy to occur on your watch. Insist on a non-stop series of experiments that force learning. Become incessant tinkerers. Inspire everyone to get better ... by your example. Trees (transformed lives) are worth it ...
2. Self Leadership (Bill Hybels).
The concept of 360-degree leadership involves leading in all directions. At the heart of all of this is 'self leadership.' You are the most difficult person you will ever lead. Your work habits as a leader are critical.
Many leaders incorrectly assume that their most important asset is their time. No, it's their energy and their ability to energise other people (culture, new initiatives, etc). Periodically ask, "God, in the next six weeks, what would be the greatest half dozen unique and significant contributions I could make to the church that you and I both love?"
Energise some people and some initiatives. Pick six tasks/projects, then prioritise them (not necessarily six things you feel like doing!). Then focus on them alone (deliberately disregard everything else). You will feel a sense of clarity and excitement. Pray over them. You can't sprint for six months but you can for six weeks. Create 'energy bursts' throughout your day against all these challenges. Focus, pray, and energise people around these six things.
Willow Creek now manages people and prioritises projects around this 6 x 6 concept. It creates a highly productive culture. Leaders are meant to move stuff ahead, not just respond to stuff all day.
Prayerfully set your 6 x 6 projects. Pray over them every day. Focus on them every day. Self leadership matters!
In 1950, there were only 3 "mega-churches" (churches with over 2,000 people attending each weekend). Today there are many 1000s. Many of these have been founded by their current senior pastor. A key question emerging is about succession planning. If you are the leader, do you see yourself ever dying? What will you be doing when you are 90? Who will take your place?
At Willow Creek, they have established (a) a planning phase (discussion of roles, time frame, honouring current pastor, etc), (b) an attempt at finding a successor (internally first, but if not, then externally), and then (c) a transition phase or baton passing (ideally 18 months in length). Bill is now 60 years of age and this process will take place over the next 5-10 years.
Senior pastors must not hang on too long and ensure that they leave a legacy for the next generation. Elders and Board members need to understand that feelings run deep in the lives and hearts of pastors, especially long term or founding pastors. These a delicate conversations.
4. Moving People to a Preferred Future.
Leaders, build a strong case that your followers can't stay here before you start talking too much about there. Along the journey from here to there, when is the vision most vulnerable? A (beginning), B (midway) or C (near the end)? It's B! The beginning energy of A carries you, as does seeing the finish line (C). Visions are extremely vulnerable in the middle (B). Start right but be careful in the middle. You need your best inspiration there.
When are you most vulnerable? Early years (A)? No, you have so much adrenaline. It's in the middle years (B) where you discover you aren't invincible. Ministries waver and die. Betrayals and disappointments occur. There may be tough layoffs, deaths of people, mistakes, team members leaving. You are very vulnerable. Near the finish line (C) ... there is a growing sense of excitement!
What an incredible privilege to be a leader! Only a small percentage of people get to do this. Have you thanked God recently for this? We know the price ... and the war stories. Enjoy every single day you get to lead, because it will be over in a blink.
Part 2 ...