2012 was the third year that I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit put on by the team at Willow Creek. When I first attended the Summit in 2009, I had the opportunity to hear from a number of great speakers, like Wess Stafford of Compassion International and Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. In 2011, I was blessed by the likes of Cory Booker, Seth Godin and Henry Cloud. 2012 was not a disappointment. The team at Willow Creek recruited in a number of heavyweight speakers including Condoleezza Rice, Jim Collins, John Ortberg and Craig Groeschel.

The speakers were fantastic, but there was another aspect of the summit that was perhaps even more valuable. The Leadership Summit brought together a number of business and ministry leaders from around the region to network, communicate and fellowship over a two-day period. I had the opportunity to connect with a number of people that I don’t often see in the course of a year. Sioux Falls has not historically had a great number of opportunities for professionals, especially technology professionals such as myself, to get together, network and communicate. It was great to have an opportunity to rub elbows with other leaders.

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The Leadership Summit also equips those that attend with a number of book recommendations and other resources to consumer over the course of the following year. There were a number of books that I’ve added to my reading list while at the Summit, including Loud as a Whisper by Bill Hybels, Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel and Getting to Yes by William L. Ury. You can read more about the books that I read in preparation for the summit and the resources that I got out of the summit by reading my post entitled, Resources from the 2012 Leadership Summit.

I was able to pick out several helpful concepts from the Leadership Summit that I will most definitely be able to make use of in my life as a Christian leader during the next 12 months and throughout the course of my life. Here are a few concepts that I pulled from the Leadership Summit:

Six by Six – During the opening session, Bill Hybels shared that one of the issues that they have been hearing that leaders are facing is task management. Leaders often find themselves responding to fires and other issues that come up throughout the day and don’t have the opportunity to lead and expand new areas. Hybels shared that he has been using a strategy called “six by six” to stay on top of new projects and other areas of focus. The “six by six” strategy is   a six-week period of focused, intense work to accomplish six goals. The goals selected should not be regular work responsibilities and should be tasks or projects that a leader can uniquely contribute to his or her organization.  Some of Hybels six week goals included finishing a new sermon series, making a key hire and raising money for a special project.

“Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs” – Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall, was the second speaker of the event. He taught on the principles in his latest book, Great by Choice. One of them was the principle of firing bullets before firing cannonballs. According to the principle, companies should fire bullets, which are low risk tests that validate an opportunity, before firing cannonballs, which are risky, costly initiatives that define an organization. In other words, before fully committing an organization to a new operational model, business venture or other significant change, it should be tried first on a smaller scale.

One of the examples on Collins’ book was Apples transition from the personal computer market to the consumer electronics market. Apple fired its first bullet into the consumer electronics market, the iPod, in 2001. When the iPod launched, it wasn’t seen as a revolutionary product, but just another competitor in the crowded MP3 player market. Apple learned a lot of lessons and improved its product over time, becoming the dominant player in the digital music player market. Apple launched its first cannonball in 2007 with the iPhone and another in 2010 with the launch of the iPad. Now, a significant majority of Apple’s income comes from its non-personal computer products.

Organizational Clarity and Communication – One of the biggest themes of the Summit, particularly during the second day, was the need for good organizational communication. Patrick Lencioni spent much of his talk on the need for organizational clarity. He stated that companies can achieve organizational clarity by answering the following six key questions:

  • “Why do we exist?”
  • “How do we behave?”
  • “What do we do?”
  • “How will we succeed?”
  • “What is most important, right now?”
  • “Who must do what?”

Companies with clarity understand why they were created and stay committed to the purpose the organization was committed. They embody their core values and have a good understanding of the work that they do. They have good organizational strategy and understand the key priorities for their business. Finally, they have clear roles and responsibilities.

Freedom and Justice – Another theme that was prevalent throughout the conference was freedom and social justice. Pranitha Timothy, Director of Aftercare, International Justice Mission (IJM), Chennai, India, spoke publicly for the very first time about her work in freeing modern day slaves. She quietly and boldly spoke about an issue that most Americans think was eradicated over a century ago. She reminded us of the present reality of slavery, particularly in the global sex trafficking trade and in plantations around the world. She quoted Isaiah 42 as her personal mission statement and reminded us all of our call to serve.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
 my chosen one in whom I delight; 
I will put my Spirit on him,
 and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, 
or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. 
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged 
till he establishes justice on earth.
 In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
 who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,  who gives breath to its people,
  and life to those who walk on it: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; 
I will take hold of your hand. 
I will keep you and will make you
 to be a covenant for the people
 and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind,  to free captives from prison  and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”