Global Leadership Summit: Opening Session with Bill Hybels


About the speaker: Bill Hybels is Founder and Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. He also founded The Global Leadership Summit which is now in 200+ U.S. sites, 260+ cities worldwide, and 85 countries. He is the author of more than 20 books.

Bill’s commitment is to developing and mentoring leaders worldwide.

Over 160,000 leaders have gathered from 40 countries for The Global Leadership Summit.

“Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”

(Bill acknowledged that not everyone in attendance has a faith-based perspective but asked for respect for those that try to lead from a Christ-centered place.)

He shared the parable from Luke 8, the sower. In the parable, Jesus chooses a 75% seed rejection ratio.

Not all sown seed grows, but the message: keep sowing the seeds.

“I believe that everyone’s life would be better if God was at the center of it,” Hybels said. His goal as pastor of Willow Creek is to see more “trees,” more transformed lives.

“I realized that if I want to see more trees, I need to sow more seeds to overcome the math of seed rejection.”

Bill went on to explain how he and his church have sown seeds over the year.

Doesn’t this beg a question: how many seeds are you sowing in your work as a leader?

In sales, we sow seeds when we contact more prospects who can buy our products and services. In marketing we sow more seeds when we try new and innovative campaigns. In HR we sow more seeds when we look for cost-effective ways to enrich the lives of our employees. In customer service, seed sowing takes place when we elevate the customer’s experience.

And what is the leader’s role in sowing seeds?

Back to Bill’s insights:

“In an organization, others take seed sowing cues from leaders.”

“And if you sow the same amount of seed, the tree count goes down and the morale of your culture goes down.

“A fundamental need of leaders is to stay curious. Entropy must not occur on our watch. Nobody will go to sleep. We must insist on a series of non stop experiments to keep people learning and grow more trees.”

Then Bill transitioned to this idea: you, leader, are the most difficult person you will ever lead.

Think about it.

Then he went on to say, ”Leaders incorrectly assume their most important leadership asset is their time. I humbly disagree. I believe it is a leader’s energy and ability to energize other people and new initiatives.”

“What is unique about a leader is their energizing capabilities.”

Who or what are you energizing?

How did Bill prioritize his leadership? He used index cards to prioritize his “6X6:” six things he wanted to achieve in the next six weeks to achieve what was most important in his church.

Then he set about directing his energy into those areas and not secondary considerations. Five of the six priorities were achieved.

Bill explains that nobody can sprint for six months, but you can for six weeks. What are the six things that will most impact your organization in the next six weeks? Once you know, you like Bill, will be able to work with tremendous focus.

“God didn’t make you a leader to ‘respond to stuff’ all day. He made you a leader to move things ahead!”

Energy…focus…priorities…movement. These are familiar concepts for most, but are they translated into daily effort?

“You leadership matters more than you think it does. Figure out the top six things that need energizing and then energize them and the people who will accomplish them.”

“You aren’t a leader to preside, but to move people from a current reality to a preferred future.”

Here’s how he unpacked this idea:

You have to start by building the case that you can’t stay where you’re at. You begin by building a sense of dissatisfaction. Then you are ready to build a case for where you need to go.

Initial energy helps you break out, and seeing the finish line keeps you going. But in-between–the “middle part”of the journey–the vision is vulnerable.

Bill asked himself, as a result of this consideration, “When am I most vulnerable as a leader?”

In the beginning he realized he ran on pure adrenaline. But in the middle years he was vulnerable: disappointments, mistakes and setbacks made him realize he wasn’t invincible.

If you are in the middle area, be careful. Stay vigilant. Keep good counsel.

“In my remaining years I want to be the best leader I can possibly be. I want to see Willow operating at peak potential, and lives changed.”

He concluded by painting a vision of his remaining years as a leader, not just what it means for him, but for the people and organization he leads.

Are you clear about your finish line? Do you aspire to finish strong? What will you do, and how will you do it?

“What a privilege it is to be a leader.”

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