Thursday, August 06, 2009

Leading in a New Reality

The annual Leadership Summit of the Willow Creek Association always showcases some of the best speakers and consultants on the circuit today. The conference originates on the Willow Creek Church campus in South Barrington, Illinois, and is sent by satellite to 140 sites across North America. I have especially appreciated the opportunity to be introduced to management gurus like Jim Collins and Patrick Lencioni through these meetings. The conference this year once again has an outstanding lineup of presenters.

One of things I admire about the Willow Creek folks is their transparency. When they make a mistake, they admit it. More than one time Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Church and board chair of WCA, has “fallen on his sword” when an error in statement or judgment was made. When they are going through a struggle, they own up to it, try to learn from it, and share their learning with others. Hybels was his usually candid self in speaking on the subject “Leading in a New Reality” this morning. He gave a report on how the church has handled the economic downturn in biblical, financial, and relational terms, then shared the impact that this has had on him personally.

Guest speaker Gary Hamel, however, went beyond the economic aspect in addressing the larger reality in which leaders function today. Hamel, a management professor and consultant, began by asking the question, “Are you changing as fast as the world around you?” He pointed out the breadth of the cultural, organizational, and generational changes in which every organization, including the church, must function today.

Although he is a member of a large church in California, Hamel stood on the stage of the one of the leading megachurches in America and made a surprising statement. He pointed out that many of the MBA students with whom he works are not interested in going to work for large, bureaucratic Fortune 500 companies; they want to start their own companies or be part of small, start-up organizations. They want to have a say in their work lives and careers. He then said, “If they don’t want to work in a large, bureaucratic company, I doubt very much that they will want to be part of large churches where they are not part of the decision-making process.”

I think he is right. Although Willow Creek does the “megachurch thing” better than anybody else, I wonder if this model has staying power. In fact, his observation about young business leaders wanting to “do their own thing” also applies to many young ministers and newly minted MDiv graduates. This IS the new reality. Hamel has hit it on the nose. A new generation craves a participative leadership style and a flat organization. Are we really ready for this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was a great conference, one of the best I've been to. Attended it here in Springfield, good opportunity. I agree with your thoughts about Hybels, he was really good.

Enjoyed Gergen a lot too.