Little things matter. Along the way you discover they weren't so little after all.

Tag Archives: Willow Creek Association

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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:

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!

Light quote


The thing that I noticed about each speaker who was a part of the Global Leadership Summit was that they were individuals.

There was no cookie cutter form, which meant each of them had their own unique style of speaking.

There was no cookie cutter, so they came from different areas of the professional world.

There was no formula or prescription they used to present their material, which made each one different from the next, each one expressing themselves in their own way. Some were methodical, others looked like they were shooting from the hip. Some used audience participation, others used a lecture style.

The point was, each of them had wisdom and insight but it looked different from that of the others.

Wisdom, insight, passion, drive – these things look different when worn by different people.

Living life fully engaged looks different for different people.


English: Polaroid Impulse camera.

One highlight for me on the first day was hearing Bob Goff speak.

I’ve seen his book, Love Does, around my peripheral vision but have yet to read it.

After seeing him speak, you’d better believe I’m going out to get it. This lawyer is a passionate nutball but don’t let his exhuberant speaking style fool you – he means business and works in intense situations dealing with oppression and child abuse. You can find out more about him at his website (

During his portion of session on the first day of the conference, Bob Goff referenced Ephesians 4:1 and said, “The verse says live a life worth of the calling YOU have received. Not what she received, not what that guy received, what YOU’VE received.”

He also snapped a picture of the auditorium with an old-school Poloroid camera and said,

“If you want to figure out what you’re made to do, let it develop over time.”

He encouraged leaders to…

“See people for who they’re becoming.”

These were the kind of things that each of the speakers shared – wisdom that applies to all areas of life, not just leadership in business or church, but leadership in life. That is an overarching value of the conference: Lead Where You Are. It is a good reminder for all of us, regardless of life-station or employment position. Lead where you are.

In what ways could you take on more leadership without taking on a different job or role? What would change if you started seeing people for who they’re becoming?

How can I sum up two days of seminars by world class speakers and leaders?

How can approximately 16 hours be distilled into a blog post?

Arizona's highest Summit - Mount Humphreys - F...

Photo credit: Al HikerAZ

It’s not really possible, but over the next couple weeks we’re gonna give it a try.

If I had to pick three words to describe the theme of the Global Leadership Summit, I’d pick:





Of course leadership is in there, since the overarching purpose of these conferences is leadership development.

But the other themes focused on the courage that leadership requires, particularly when innovating.

It takes courage to look at things from a new perspective. It takes courage to do things differently from how they’ve been done. It takes courage to invite others to know us on a personal level rather than keeping things “all business” all the time. And it is connection that keeps people engaged.

The Summit had so many great speakers with so many insights that it continues to reveal itself even after it concluded. So I hope you’ll allow me to percolate on the experience and share those things that rise to the surface after some time has passed. I anticipate picking about four posts to follow, but not all in a row.

For today, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Liz Wiseman. This applies to businesses and organizations (as much of the Summit is intended to) but it can be even bigger than that and apply to interactions with almost anyone you encounter. You can find a link to her book below. Also, if you want to find out more about the Global Leadership Summit, here is a link to their page: But I wrap things up today, consider what would change in your day is you approached the world with this underlying belief. I think it has significant implications on many levels.

Multipliers believe that people around them are smart and will figure it out.

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