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Chicago skyline at sunrise (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I realized that I may have gotten ahead of myself in my enthusiasm about this year’s Global Leadership Summit. Until last year I had never heard of it, and maybe some of you haven’t either. Please allow me to summarize.

Willow Creek Association has been organizing Global Leadership Summit for the past 20 years. Here’s a summary of the Summit, from their website: http://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership/about.asp

The Global Leadership Summit is a two-day, world-class leadership event experienced by more than 170,000 leaders around the world, representing more than 14,000 churches. It’s telecast LIVE from Willow’s campus (near Chicago) every August. Throughout the fall, Summit events take place in an additional 300+ cities, 92 countries—and translated into 42 languages. This event is crafted to infuse vision, skill development and inspiration for the sake of local church transformation.

The Summit speakers are broadcast live from Willow Creek Church in Illinois, but it is beamed in live to over 230 sites around the country. They are also international, providing leadership development in places where no such resource exists.

From what I experienced, much of the information shared is applicable to people from various faith traditions, but there is definitely a Christian angle to the conference. Two of the speakers gave what basically amounted to sermons, one of which had decidedly less “leadership” focus. However, most of the speakers focused on the specifics of strong organizations and healthy leadership.


One speaker, Chris Brown, used a Bible story to illustrate raising up leaders and what to do when they start realizing their potential. Some leaders see this as a threat. Some feel there isn’t room for two strong leaders. Some feel threatened by the presence of another effective leader, as if he/she is bound to usurp power or position unintentionally (or, perhaps, intentionally).

It’s something that doesn’t get talked about much.

But it’s a common occurrence.

One thing Chris Brown said was that, “Insecure leaders have to have the titles and position.” Their leadership is only validated externally, and they can’t allow anyone else to have that title or that position, because that lessens their own validity.

The thing Chris Brown said that sat me back in my chair was this:

“My fear is that in the next 10-15 years there will be a lot of cities that are gifted civic centers that used to be churches, but the personality left.”

If a church or an organization, business, etc. relies on one charismatic person to reach people, bring in business, then what happens when that person leaves? If there has been no leadership development in that organization, and it all revolves around that one person, the place will be forced to shut down. If there’s only been room at the top for one, there’s a strong possibility that when that one leaves, the whole place will fall apart.

Brown also said, “When we can make room at the top, you get a healthier you, a healthier team, a healthier organization.”

He would know.

He’s one of four senior pastors at North Coast Church in California that practices co-leadership. North Coast Church happens to be the largest  of the Evangelical Free churches.

When he received the initial email inviting him to speak at the Summit, he said he took about two weeks trying to find out what sneaky youth pastor was playing a prank on him. When he realized it was for real, some people around him asked if it was just him being invited and not Larry Osbourne as well? (Larry Osbourne is the longtime pastor of North Coast Church, one of the now four senior pastors there, and a published author and speaker.)

Chris Brown’s talk was a great reminder about the power of healthy leadership. Because Larry Osbourne is not intimidated by sharing position and title, Chris Brown can serve as an effective leader with his own style and reach.

If you look at your circle and where you connect with others, are you able to allow their strengths and passions to be used? Or do those strengths and passions make you feel like your own are diminished? Is that a reality or your perception? What about in your family circles? Friends? What about your role in community groups or where you volunteer?

Are there people who need your encouragement as they explore their gifts? Can you offer praise to someone who is testing his abilities? Can you share your spotlight? I’d love to hear your experiences with this, so chime in with your comments!

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