And with that, The Leadership Summit kicked off. Hybels welcomed everyone to the room, the satellite campus, the computer screen. One of the things I love about the Summit–the thing that Hybels was making a point of in the quote above–is that there must be an element of humility for Christians to learn from non-Christians and vice versa. In a church setting, this is rare. And it is a remarkable gift that we get to be in this place to learn, one from the other, from a place of humility.
And part of humility is courage. And part of vulnerability is courage. And part of leadership–the actual hard work of leadership–is courage.
Courage is integral to vision, which is a picture of the future that creates passion in people. Courage in action at Willow took on a unique tint when the Care Center was taken on; a building program that required lots of money in the middle of a deep global recession. The Care Center would bring together the ministries of medicine, food, transportation, and more, and the money was raised in full before the church broke ground on the building.
The point here, to be sure, isn’t that if you have enough courage you will always get what you want. The point is courage–the courage people exercised alongside the homeless community in the area, courage to help provide choices for people who are limited in what they can afford, the kind of courage that acts along with dignity.
“Every significant vision that God gives to you will test your courage,” Bill said. People will resist moving, resist change, will need to hear more. And to move people halfway without finishing the job is a nightmare.
Lots of leaders, when they get a vision from God, simply let it go. Fear will paralyze leaders and risk turn people away, so our courage is depleted. We get afraid–of what? Of failure, of success. Of more fear, of a too-high cost. Especially in the church, where failure is further discouraged as somehow representative of character or moral strength.
What we must keep coming back to are the words that God said to Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
“Visions are holy commodities,” Bill said.
On to MaxDePree, whose famous line “The first responsibility of the leader is to define reality,” reminds us that leaders are always leading in situations that require totally different approaches. Leaders must know (and be ruthlessly honest about) how and what their organization is doing. An organization that is thriving will need something different from its leaders than a church that is headed south. Defining reality takes remarkable courage, but without it, you are guaranteed to fail.
The courage to lead through disappointment, to lead with vision that becomes value, to lead through grief and fear, to lead from a deep connection with God…these are the things that we are reminded of when we hear Bill talk. The courage that is required to do our work well is not something we muster up on our own, not a gritted-teeth kind of strength. “And some of the most rewarding experiences of a leader’s marathon,” Bill says, “are reserved for later in the race.”
We also heard, several times, from Bill about the importance of women in leadership. It was a group of five women who lead all phases of the Care Center. Willow, as Bill reminded us, has been a church behind women in leadership from the very beginning. Like it or leave it, the transition from casting vision about women in leadership from actually holding it as a value has come to define Willow. So, I give you: