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Monday, August 18, 2014

Going Global on Leadership

One of the blessings of living in a city the size of Chicago is the range of opportunity to see excellence at work. Our museums, professional sports franchises, and theatre productions are top notch. Maybe the Cubs could use a little help.

This past week, I attended several sessions at the Global Leadership Summit brilliantly crafted by, of all places, a church! Well, not just any church, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington northwest of downtown Chicago. The incredible facility they operate for ministry of many kinds is a spectacle unto itself. You can best get a glimpse of the Willow world at their website,

Leadership topics, of course, are the Summit’s theme. The cast of presenters is made up of premiere leaders in both business and the nonprofit world. This year, that group included the likes of Jeffrey Immelt of GE, Patrick Lencioni (founder of The Table Group), Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard), among many others.

In the nonprofit world, leadership development should be as prized as it is in the for-profit sector. Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek and the creative developer of the Global Leadership Summit, understands this very well. His opening presentation revealed his passion and pursuit of this topic. Another Chicago pastor, Wilfredo De Jesus, was given a standing ovation for his passionate commitment to lead an energized charge into the dark side of prostitution, gangs, homelessness, and poverty that plague our city and most other mega-communities.

An important lesson from all helps paint a clear picture that management — even good management — is not the same as leadership. I know this to be true. I probably have about 200 books on some aspect of leadership. The message that seems most effective in any presentation format is to hear 
revelations from leaders who discover their own weaknesses and challenge themselves to find ways to strengthen the weak spots. One presenter, Erica Ariel Fox, positioned four dimensions of human 
development and gave examples of how to overcome weaknesses in each.

One of the sessions I most enjoyed focused on “Crucial Conversations.” Of course, there is a book on this very subject by the presenter, Joseph Grenny. This man is a cofounder of the company VitalSmarts that works with hundreds of companies in developing leaders. And smart he is.

Crucial conversations are those conversations that occur when the stakes are high, emotions run strong, and opinions vary. Grenny explained that when those conversations are needed, people will either talk them out or act them out. Both approaches have consequences. Talking them out is always best, though often very difficult. (Audio of this and all the sessions are available from Willow Creek’s website.)

If there was one person in human history who faced the most crucial conversations that I’ve read about, it is Jesus of Nazareth. People loved challenging his wisdom on matters, mostly with the intent of trapping him. Jesus never shied away from any question. 

Take the one about whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asks for a coin. Then He asks whose image was on the coin. That would be Caesar’s. So, Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 12) Brilliant. And with a crucial point. As Bill Hybels might say, “Figure it out.”
Jesus got plenty of attention at the Global Leadership Summit. He is not simply a leader. He is THE Leader. Interestingly, one of His most common messages was simple: Follow me.

Maybe one year, Willow Creek will hold the Global Followers Summit. Hmmm.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for 
WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

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