Bill Hybels was talking and told this story. He was consumed with leading and growing the Willow Creek Church and was in his office one day when his daughter stopped by. His desk was covered with papers and he was deeply focused on an issue that needed his attention. He looked up when she came in and saw that she wanted to talk with him. Without thinking, he said “Can you talk quickly because I am really busy right now.” She began to back out of the office and said, “It’s OK Dad, I can come back when you are able to listen slowly”. Not surprisingly, that conversation was like a dagger to his heart. He ran after his daughter, apologized for his abrupt response to her and asked for her forgiveness. God used that incident to begin a deep work of transformation in his heart that would impact other leaders for generations to come.
This week, I was the beneficiary of that work in Bill’s life. Not only was Bill the founder and pastor of the Willow Creek Church, but he founded the Global Leadership Summit that is held every year in August. This live event is hosted at his South Barrington, Illinois church campus and is simulcast in nearly 600 locations around the USA. Over 300,000 people attend and participate at one of these many sites. I had the joy of attending two different sites in Philadelphia where our team was providing a leadership book resource table for the attendees. It was exciting to see other leaders investing in their own growth and development and to learn from the excellent faculty of speakers that were sharing from the main stage during the two days of the event.
There were many highly influential and experienced leaders that Bill and his team had chosen to speak at the summit this year. They included Melinda Gates (Bill Gates’ wife and head of the Gates Foundation), Alan Mulally (President of the Ford Motor Company) and acclaimed leadership author Patrick Lencioni. While I learned a lot from every one of the speakers, I was most deeply impacted by Bill Hybels himself and something that he shared on the second day. Maybe that is because he and I share some traits in common and are passionate and driven leaders who care deeply about God’s kingdom. Maybe it is because I share some of the same flaws and have made some of the same mistakes.
In the middle of the second day, Bill walked to a flip chart and drew a diagram of a line that went diagonally from the bottom left of the page to the top right and said this represented the ever increasing pace of the life of a typical leader who takes on more and more responsibility. Then he drew a second parallel line below it that only went half way up the page and then began to fall off and actually went down to the bottom right. This line represented the amount of time, energy and focus that leaders spend on developing their own souls. Far too often in the race to get things accomplished, leaders do not invest as much in the growth of their souls as they do in the growth of their ministry or business. The result is often burn out and leadership failure. As a leader who has been taking on more and more responsibility I could relate to everything he was saying.
For me and many of the other attendees, the Global Leadership Summit is a soul investment. It was two solid days of leadership teaching and reflection that was fuel for my inner person. As I was considering how to keep investing in this type of growth going forward, it struck me that many of the tools I needed were right on the book table in front of me. Bill suggested taking 10-15 minutes every day in solitude before God to let Him speak deeply to our hearts. He even gave us some practice by stopping the summit teaching at three specific points for two minutes of nothing but beautiful music and asked us to get quiet before God. Coupled with this practice of silence he emphasized the value of reading daily and committing to let the words of these authors soak into your soul. I was ready for the challenge and look forward to allowing God to shape me in times of silence, reflection and reading.