Leaders are Servants, Part 1


The Essence of Global Leadership

How do you summarize the information and inspiration that is captured and released upon those who come to Willow Creek Church (WCC) in Barrington, Illinois, for the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS, www.willowcreekglobalsummit.com) or to those who choose to spend two days in a church, prison or other venue across the United States and Canada to soak in the wisdom and blessings via satellite streaming?  I struggle with how to convey the power of GLS to transform your thoughts, thinking and behaviors towards becoming a better leader.  As Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek, passionately loves to say, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”  My response is, “Amen! I want to hear more.”

In 2015 Greg Lernihan, friend and church member of Willow Creek, suggested my husband and I attend GLS through a satellite location in Houston, Texas.  Fortunately, our home church, Northside Christian, decided to host this event for the first time, where we were blessed to fellowship in the leadership messages with our pastors, members, and visitors. We were so moved by the power of the experience we immediately signed up to attend GLS in the main auditorium at Willow Creek for 2016.  For the record WCC seats about 7,000 people, and the GLS 2016 tickets sold out in about 30 minutes. When 2017 tickets went on sale on August 11, 2016, auditorium tickets sold out within 15 minutes.  When you get a taste of GLS, you understand its power and typically want to make a commitment to return every year.

So what is GLS all about for those who may never have heard of this two-day personal investment event?  In a nutshell, GLS brings together real leaders who are moving forward, learIMG_0340ning, struggling and succeeding in their fields of leadership, who have a servant heart, and who desire to share with the world their knowledge, so everyone can become better at leading themselves, their families, co-workers, and their communities.  As such the speakers come from diverse backgrounds and cover leadership in faith-based organizations, politics, businesses, and other non-profit government organizations (NGO). There is something for everyone to say the least.  The messages transcend religion, culture, and lifestyles.

Past leaders whose names you probably recognize include Jack Welch, Jim Collins, Ed Catmull, Brene Brown, Tyler Perry, Carly Fiorina, Louie Giglio, General Colin Powell, Mark Burnett, and Condoleezza Rice. Many other speakers, who may not be as well-known as CEOs and celebrities, were just as impactful in their research findings and areas of expertise.  GLS 2016 did not disappoint and included some new and returning favorite speakers advancing new topics.  This year’s lineup included Bill Hybels, Alan Mulally, Melinda Gates, Jossy Chacko, Travis Bradberry, Patrick Lencioni, Chris McChesney, Erin Meyer, John Maxwell, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Danielle Strickland, Horst Schulze, and Wilfredo De Jesus.

So you are thinking, enough of the background, I get it!  I’m sold on GLS, so what did you learn? Below is just one key message (Part 1) shared by what I thought was one of the most powerful speakers, Bill Hybels, along with my entwined commentary.

Bill Hybels: The Lenses of Leadership

Bill discussed four types of eyewear that every leader should try on and decide how well the lenses are working to correct his/her leadership vision.  The first pair are the red hot passion lenses which beg the question, “Are you presiding over people or energizing people to get from HERE to THERE?” Studies show that a leader gets a Bill Hybels40% performance differential from motivated versus unmotivated people.  So, how does a leader get more passion? Passion is typically inspired by a dream, outrage, or extreme frustration which forces one to become an unstoppable force to create change. When you put on your ruby red eyeglasses, how filled is your passion bucket?  Are you satisfied with the passion you have in life and how you are leading in your workplace and family?  If you’re not satisfied, what are you going to do about it?  After all, it’s the leader’s job to fill his own passion bucket and no one else’s.  If you don’t know where to start, pick up a book of interest, go to places that stir your soul, or hang out with passionate people.  Passion can be contagious!   Help just one person, and you’ll be surprised how your passion bucket begins to fill.

The second pair of eyeglasses to try on are the shattered lenses.  How many leaders are operating in or perpetuating a fear-based organization versus honoring people and building well-functioning cultures that are performance oriented!  Organizations will only be as healthy as the leader’s desire and intent.   Sometimes the shattered lenses are so close to the leader’s eyes that he/she cannot see clearly what the culture has become.  If the leader’s true heartfelt desire is to lead and love well, how does s/he get a true perspective?  If you are a work organization, you can hire an independent firm to survey the culture.  If you are leading your family, you can ask trusted family and friends for feedback without rebuttal or justification.  What many leaders forget as they strive for results is that God only values one thing—people.  God has entrusted leaders with his treasures—his people.  Sometimes leaders lose sight of the journey and its people while trying to reach a goal.

How can a leader coach and support people to be all that God intended them to be?  The first step is to increase self-awareness and expose their talents.  Some people have never self-reflected or taken inventory of their talents and don’t know where to start.  If you don’t know what you’re really good at, ask those who are closest to you.  Most of your friends, family, and coworkers have already done an informal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. After all, they typically discuss this in small groups around the water cooler or coffee bar.  What can organizations do with this knowledge?  How about matching people’s strengths with roles that would take advantage of those strengths and minimize the impact of weaknesses.

The third pair of specialized eyewear are the performance self-adjusting lenses.  All organizations typically come together for a purpose which usually includes setting and achieving goals whether formal or implied.  Companies have goals for revenue, profit, safety, and customer satisfaction.  Even families have goals such as raising healthy and independent adult children.  Churches have goals such as the number of people served or number of members who have joined.  In general, the speed of the leader equals the speed of the team in achieving their goals.   So this correlation begs the question of how can goals impact the speed of the team and what adjustments do leaders need to make?  Bill professed that WCC was once a goalaholic church with too many goals and not enough people to carry out all the good ideas and initiatives.  You can imagine the results from goal overload, because many of you probably work in that environment today.  Burnout? Feeling a lack of appreciation?  Life becomes more about the goals and processes versus the people and the relationships?  So how can a leader adjust, get his/her team to perform at higher levels, and boost the morale of the team all at the same time?  These are not opposing forces; leaders just need to readjust.

First, let’s break a myth held by some leaders which is people are uncomfortable with performance feedback.  Truth, people want to know that their senior leaders are proud of their progress.  Truth, people want to know how they are doing and where they stand.  Truth, people want clarity and can accept negative feedback if the truth is said with the spirit of love.  Not giving goals and feedback is essentially cruel.  Second, if you can embrace these truths, the next step is for the leader to set the vision/mission for the organization and then ask the team what the goals should be.  Each department should be empowered to develop strategies, decide and own measurable goals, and celebrate the successes.  If you have too many or two few goals you will not have clarity, but entrust your team to find the perfect balance to prioritize and focus on the win.

What is in your leadership rearview mirror?  The fourth pair of eyeglasses that Bill perched atop his nose were the legacy lenses.  Have you peeked lately into your rearview mirror to see what you’ve left behind as you moved people from HERE to THERE?  At least on an annual basis, leaders should reflect on their legacy, self-evaluate, and learn how to do better.  Leadership is about energy, and Bill suggested drawing an energy pie to determine where you are putting your energy: work, family, church, community, others, etc.

God designed us to flourish holistically, and in many cases we are putting all our energy into our work.  How do you need to redistribute your energy across the pie slivers?  What areas should remain untouched, which need a do-over, or perhaps one or more just need a make-over.  It is never too late to change the course if you act now.  Legacies can change in an instant, and the proof was in the simple yet powerful story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Jesus remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43).  As Bill reminded us of that short scripture, he also mentioned that 43 prisons were watching this leadership summit live.

Bill’s last statement ignited a passion!  My husband and I are executive volunteers for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP, www.pep.org) in Cleveland, Texas.  PEP are leaders in their quest to transform men, their families, and the community by empowering ex-felons with character-building and business skills so they can integrate into society as healthy and contributing citizens.  PEP’s success is measured by its recidivism rate of 7% for those graduating from the program versus the prison population at large of > 50%.  We need to add the Cleveland Correctional Facility to the list of GLS satellites, so that at least 44 prisons will be streaming GLS live in 2017.  Who wants to be part of the team?  I’m willing to lead!

 

To Judge or Not to Judge?

cropped-shinecrossings_mainlogo.pngWho likes to judge or be the judge?  How often do you find yourself judging?  To whatever frequency you just admitted, I bet if you thoughtfully played back those daily rituals in your mind, you would surprise yourself in how much more judging you do than first thought.  You probably judge the taste of your cup of java (“ah, so good” or “ugh, that’s bitter”), your reflection back in the morning mirror (“yikes, look at those bags and dark circles under my eyes”), and those other drivers on the road (“pay attention, what an idiot”).  What are some of your thoughts when you arrive at work?  How about the casual assessment of your colleague’s work (“that sucks, he should have been fired a long time ago”), the choice of your coworker’s attire (“what was she thinking”), and how about the leadership of your boss (“I could do better with half a brain”).   Some of these judgments may be extreme, but you have to admit not uncommon.  As humans we are so quick to judge without much thought, as if our judgment is fed from our five senses fueling our emotions which override our thinking brain, and in some cases, just barely stops at the tip of our tongues.  How did it hear, look, taste, smell and feel?  Did our ability to make quick judgment stem from our humanistic need for survival—the ability to make a quick threat assessment and spring into action to protect ourselves and ensure our safety.  God made humans with this beautiful part of the brain called the “pre-frontal cortex” which gives us some incredible abilities that surpass all other living creatures on earth.  Our pre-frontal cortex gifts us with the ability not to act on impulse or innate reflexes but to use reason and logic in assessing our living situations.  So why don’t we seem use it more?  Why is it so easy for us to pass judgment with hardly giving it a second thought?  Could it be that we have not been burned badly enough by our quick conclusions to exert more cortex capacity?  Humans can be conditioned!

So what does it feel like to be judged?  When I ask this question, I am sure you can immediately conjure up a few examples that bring a twinge of pain even today after many years.  Are you having a bit of an emotional rise?  Unpleasant at best, maybe a bit angry at worst.   As you dwell on some of these painful memories, some thoughts you may have are “but I just didn’t have a choice,” “I was young, stupid and didn’t get any slack,” and “if only they could walk in my shoes they would understand why I did what I did.”  You may be right.  If I walked in your shoes at that moment, I may have done exactly what you did and have more compassion for you today.   You were judged, convicted and sentenced!  Welcome to prison!  You may not be incarcerated, but you are still a prisoner in your own mind.  You cannot erase that memory or pain of how you were judged.  Perhaps you feel you served your sentence by making amends, but why does it feel like the punishment is still life imprisonment?   Being on the receiving end of judgment can be painful and leave scars for a lifetime.  So if we can agree that being judged is unpleasant at best, why do we continue to give out what we hate to receive?

Let me clarify one point that typically comes into the discussion on judgment.  Many people use discernment and judgment interchangeably, especially in the Christian world.  Aren’t those the same?  Not exactly.  Discernment assesses value and typically leads to action whereas judgment just labels.  Discernment is wisdom and understanding whereas judgment is an assessment of right or wrong, good versus bad.  You can have discernment that a situation is unsafe, then take appropriate action to ensure your safety.  Judgment would describe a situation as unsafe but not necessarily imply action.  As humans we need discernment, but judgment does not serve ourselves or others as well.  Remember that old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Not true!  Hurtful, judgmental words cut deeper than any knife could, and many of those internal wounds may never heal.  How many kids on the playground may have shouted those words in return to judgmental statements such as “You can’t hit the ball.  I don’t want you on my team,” or  “You’re wearing flood pants, did you borrow them from your baby brother?” Yes, I was a victim then.  I now know that those cruel words left the mouth of babes because their immature pre-frontal cortex, yet you know, as  a teacher supervising that playground, you might have thought those same words.  Of course, you kept your mouth shut. If everyone understood the eternal, faithful love that God has for us, no one would be able to hurt us with words or actions, because we would understand that our identity and self-worth only reside in our loving God.  Unfortunately, we do not live in this perfect world; therefore, work, possessions and human relationships have a heavy influence on people’s sense of self-worth and ability to feel loved and valued.

I will stipulate that judgment and subsequent consequences are completely appropriate and necessary in our law system.  However, I will be honest that my heart breaks for those who have made mistakes, served their prison sentence, but have walls to climb in order to integrate back into community despite their deep desire to contribute to society.  In the best of circumstances, think about those adults who have been convicted of a minor “F”elony, never harmed another individual, and only served probation.  I have one of those friends who was convicted of drug possession, sentenced to probation for his first offense, but has to wear the “F” on his shirt like a scarlet letter.  With his felony status he cannot live in any apartment complex, has few job opportunities, and is constantly judged unworthy.  He is trying to do better but the system and community are both intentionally and unintentionally working against him.  Sometimes the difference between a felony is only one person getting caught and the other not.   We are all human, have weakness and possible addictions.  Maybe he had too much dependence on marijuana which got him into trouble. Addiction is addiction and can manifest itself differently with each individual.  Hoarding, alcohol, food, spending money, exercise and pornography can all become addictions if the behavior is taken to extreme, yet we typically judge people who have these additions differently.  Why?  Because those addictions happen to be legal, whereas in most states marijuana is still illegal.

Can we not have more compassion for those who are trying to help themselves in the moment?  Can we stop labeling people as good or bad and start labeling people as hurt and in need or healthy and blessed?  My heart hurts for those who are suffering under the heavy weight of judgment.  I cannot change the world, but I can call it out with the hope that people will have greater pause and hopefully more awareness of their judgment.  Instead of judging, why not lend a helping hand, or extend a kind word or gesture.  Lift a human brother or sister up with words of affirmation versus tearing them down.  But you may say, “I don’t say anything.  I keep my thoughts to myself.  My thoughts can’t hurt anyone.”  I would disagree; those negative thoughts are carried in your body language and manifest themselves in choices of behavior towards others whether you are conscious of it or not.

And for those of you who made it to this point and thought, “Isn’t she judging?”  My reply is, “Yes I am! I admit it. I’m judging with a purpose.”   Am I suggesting that as humans we will suspend all judgment?  Of course not, we all fall short of perfection.  As sinners we can only challenge ourselves to do better!  We should take the plank out of our own eye, before trying to remove the speck out of our brother’s, as our own sin blinds us to the truth of the situation.  My hope is you will be more thoughtful every time you catch yourself judging.   Might this be one of those times where you make a different assessment or choice and change a life with words of encouragement or actions of a loving hand up?  I pray that you do!  I leave you with this final thought:  Your judgment may say more about you than it does about the person you judge!