Another August, another Leadership Summit is in the books. While I won’t equate the yearly conference with my wedding anniversary, as some do, it is a tremendous event that is almost information overload for the attendee. Here are a dozen highlights from the conference.

12. “Dig some ditches.” – When I first came across Steven Furtick I was intrigued. This will be expanded upon in an upcoming post, but needless to say the curiosity continues. Him being a speaker at Leadership Summit wasn’t surprising, because of the success his church has had, but I wondered what his talk would actually say. Steven’s talk was good. I appreciated him addressing the fact that so many conference attendees are inspired, but then go home and do nothing. I liked how he referenced Elisha. I liked some of the one liners he delivered. I thought Steven had one of the better talks at Summit. Simple, to the point and actionable items for people. All of us have some dirty work to implement the ideas we generate at a conference. We just need to do it, and trust God to do his part.

We need to stop comparing our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.
-Steven Furtick

11. Howard Schultz backing out was a win…for the attendees. – I had said that I wasn’t as excited to hear Howard speak as most everyone else I talked to, that was attending Leadership Summit. However, I did want to give him another chance. I’m a tad cynical toward him because of his role in Seattle losing the Sonics NBA franchise, and the (RED) campaign Starbucks did a few years ago at Christmas that I saw as bottom line driven. Unfortunately, he backed out over some misinformation regarding Willow Creek. Bill Hybels was incredibly gracious to him with his public remarks. Those of us attending we’re given a real example of class and grace. And, Patrick Lencioni filled his spot and hit a homerun with his talk. As Michael Scott would say, “Win-win-win.”

As I get older I realize how counter-cultural it is to be a follower of Christ.
-Patrick Lencioni

10. Stereotypes are undermined. – Most of my ministry life I have worked with, and alongside, mostly conservative, evangelical Christians. Most of the time these are good people, but I hear some silliness every now and then. I’ll hear that Democrats or Catholics cannot be Christian. The people who think this are the minority. I wish I could be next to them if they were to ever hear Mayor Cory Booker or Patrick Lencioni speak. Those two share about their love for God, and yet you have a registered Democrat and a practicing Catholic. Two represented groups that a number of conservative, evangelical Christians have problems accepting. Incidentally, Cory Booker gave me a bit more hope in politicians with his talk. I wish there more men and women in office like him because I think at the end of the day they’d choose what’s best for people over what’s best to keep them in office.

We are the result of people who did not see the world as they should. In denial, they saw suffrage. In slavery, they saw freedom. They stood up and did something about it. What you see in the world is a reflection of who you are.
-Cory Booker

9. I think Len’s talk will be forgotten, and I think that’s a shame. – Len Schlesinger had to follow Bill’s opening talk, which was its usual stellar self. After Len was Mayor Cory Booker, who did a wonderful job mixing his stories with salient points. Len was sandwiched between one of the most influential pastors and one of the most influential politicians. Len said a number of great things, but his systematic takedown of the entrepreneur stereotype was great. I think people often limit themselves because they don’t think they are the type of person that should be in that field. Whether it be entrepreneurs, artists, ministry workers or something else, it’s not about fitting the mold. It’s about action. It’s about passion. It’s about reinvention. It’s about doing something new instead of doing something again.

Believe in the future by creating it first.
-Len Schlesinger

8. The audio will not do it justice, so get the video of Seth Godin’s presentation. – A number of people probably wondered who would have the misfortune of following Brenda Salter McNeil’s high energy talk. I wonder what they thought after Seth’s talk. With Seth, it’s not just the content, it’s the whole package. Everything, even to the tiniest detail, goes into communicating his message. That will be missed if you only get the audio of his talk, “Poke the Box”.

Our religious institutions are a reflection of our society today. We have interchangeable people. We teach people to fit in because that’s what makes the factory work. Once people fit in*, they can be ignored.
-Seth Godin

*If I would have acquiesced to the pressure to “fit in”, I would not be getting ready to launch and lead the Online Campus.

7. We should not be tolerating fools and evil people, and yet we still do.Henry Cloud hammered this home, and Bill Hybels also touched on it with his opening talk. The foolish and evil person do damage to an organization, yet hardly anyone in the organization seems to do anything about it. From afar, we see the fool, the evil person, poisoning those they are in contact with at the organization. Why are we afraid? Do we not believe in the organization? Do we not want what is best for other individuals? Do we not want what is best for the foolish or evil person? Yes, it is easier said than done, confronting either of these people, but for the vitality of the organization, and the people within it, it must be done.

Do not confront or correct a fool, lest you incur insults. They’ll shoot the messenger. What do you do? Stop talking. Why? They have stopped the vision. Their allergy to your reality is now in charge. We stop talking and we have a different kind of conversation. Talk about a new problem, the problem of them. The problem of the pattern.
-Henry Cloud

6. Do we have skin in the game? If not, perhaps we should.Michelle Rhee walks the talk. I appreciated the fact that she had her own kids in the public schools when she was the Chancellor of the DC Public Schools. It added to the urgency to bring about reforms in one of the worst performing school districts in the nation. She was being told to slow down the reforms by people who, for the most part, had their kids in private schools. They didn’t feel the urgency because it wasn’t their kids at risk. They didn’t mind that it might take a few years for a teacher to improve because it wasn’t their kids being taught by that underperforming teacher. For Michelle, it was a reality. Do we feel the urgency for reform when it’s not affecting us? From the outside, it’s easy to talk about reform. I think of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail and how he responded to the white clergy who thought he should take his time and let the courts handle the social injustices.

Separate from that was to create a different culture in the school district. Have care for students that we have for our own children. I sent my kids to public schools. It increases accountability for me since it is my kids being affected. With teachers, if keeping them accountable, if we keep a bad teacher we’d have to be comfortable with that bad teacher teaching my own kids. I’m not comfortable with that. Some think, “So what if it takes a few years for the teacher to be good.” The kid is being poorly taught that year by that teacher. If I can’t subject my own children to it, I won’t subject it to other children/parents.
-Michelle Rhee

5. For awhile there, I thought Patrick Lencioni was Daniel Tosh’s doppleganger. – For the sheer entertainment value, you should listen to Patrick Lencioni’s presentation. When you watch it, and if you’ve watched any of Daniel Tosh’s standup, you might be like me and pick up on mannerisms they both do. Hard to explain. Also, they both are going to do their thing regardless of how the audience might respond. The audience is along for the ride. Patrick did a great job in talking about vulnerability. If my blog posts are any indication, I always have a lot of responses to the posts that are more vulnerable. People can identify and connect with it. It draws them in closer. There needs to be more of it, vulnerability, in the church.

Being vulnerable is attractive. It breeds commitment. It’s powerful and yet not easy. It involves suffering, it involves pain. Why do we do it when we aren’t rewarded? We do it because we are called to do it by the most humble and vulnerable person ever, Jesus.
-Patrick Lencioni

4. Mount Rushmore – This is the sixth year I’ve attended Leadership Summit in some capacity. The speakers, and their presentations, were strong this year. It could be the best overall faculty. I think I could make a case for you to listen to at least ten of the talks. Here’s my Mount Rushmore from this year’s speakers: Bill Hybels, Len Schlesinger, Seth Godin, and Steven Furtick.

Your God given job, as a leader, is to move an organization from here to there. Whatever it takes, however long it takes. If you don’t believe that anymore, step aside. There is too much at stake in this world for leaders to walk around with defeated mindsets.
-Bill Hybels

3. Generous Justice – Social justice is something I’ve been processing and wrestling with throughout the year. What can I do, in my life and work, to help bring about justice? When I read books about it, when I hear what others are doing, I’m challenged. It was no surprise that Mama Maggie Gobran’s story would be challenging and inspiring. Before she even talked, she received a standing ovation from the audience in Chicago. The axiom “content is king” with her life and story. In serving the poorest of the poor, in one of the most persecuted regions of the world, she reflects Jesus to people she interacts with at all times. I listen to her talk and think, “What am I doing?” Maybe I can’t do what she is doing, but I can do something. I need to do more. I want to.

Silence your body, to listen to your words. Silence your tongue, to listen to your thoughts. Silence your thoughts, to listen to your heart beating. Silence your heart, to listen to your spirit. Silence your spirit, to listen to His spirit.
-Mama Maggie Gobran

2. “Do somethin’!” – To me, the overall theme of this year’s Leadership Summit. Act. Move. Work. Do something. It was touched upon, in various forms, by Bill Hybels, Len Schlesinger, Cory Booker, Brenda Salter McNeil, Seth Godin, Steven Furtick, and Erwin McManus. Don’t just come away from the conference with a glut of information and ideas that you won’t do anything with once you leave. Even if it’s only one thing, do something. Do it today.

If all you have is ideas you are a daydreamer, not a visionary.
-Steven Furtick

1. Bill Hybels – Every year I’ve heard him speak at Leadership Summit he sets the bar high for the rest of the speakers. There aren’t wasted words, or moments, when he talks. This year’s talk, which centered around five questions leaders need to ask themselves, was excellent. Each of the questions could have been its own one hour talk. It was chock-full of content that flowed together perfectly.

What I also appreciate is the authority with which he speaks. He has lived out what he teaches. It’s not a fluke that Willow Creek is still going strong thirty-five years after it was founded. One of my first impressions of Bill was a coworker slamming him for having then President Bill Clinton at Leadership Summit. Over the years, I’ve heard other people slam him for a variety of menial things. It’s a joke. Bill loves and serves people, especially leaders. Millions have been blessed because of faithfulness, obedience and passion.

When a leader gets better, everybody wins.
-Bill Hybels

Click on the speaker to read my notes from their session: Bill Hybels, Len Schlesinger, Cory Booker, Brenda Salter McNeil, Seth GodinSteven FurtickBill Hybels/Wess StaffordMama Maggie Gobran/Bill HybelsMichelle RheeHenry CloudJohn DicksonPatrick Lencioni and Erwin McManus.

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