3 Things Bill Hybels Knows about Leadership

Leadership tipsLast week I attended the Global Leadership Summit and got to hear from some great leaders and thinkers including Jim Collins, Dan Pink, Tony Dungy and Jack Welch to name a few. Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church and founder of the summit, opened the event with a story about a time recently when he was feeling discouraged as a leader and questioned whether he really knew anything about leadership.

Going back to the basics he slowly reassured himself that he did know a few things about the subject. Here are three things he shared from what he’s learned during his 35 years leading one of the largest and most influential churches in America:

1. Leaders move people from HERE to THERE. This simple truth is not in and of itself revolutionary. However, here’s the key insight: the first step in moving people isn’t telling them how wonderful THERE will be – if you do that first, you’ll always have some people who’ll say, “well, that sounds great and all, but we like it HERE. And we’re not moving.” The first step should be to tell people how awful it is HERE. Help them believe that they cannot stay HERE, then show them how great THERE will be.

2. It Takes Fantastic People. Hybels recommends considering all your people and asking the question, “How would we react if this person told us they were leaving.” Separate each person into one of three responses:

  • “Phew!” – We wouldn’t really miss them and honestly the team will operate better.
  • “Ugh.” – That’s a key position, now we’re going to have to find someone to replace her.
  • “Vomit!” – This person is all but irreplaceable! What can we do to keep them!?!

Next, he suggests you talk with people in the first group and see if you can find them a better fit somewhere else. Finally you talk to individuals in the last group and you let them know that you consider them fantastic and invaluable to your organization. Keep an open dialogue and make sure they feel free to share any frustrations that may come up.

3. Mile-markers & Celebrations. The hardest part of the journey between HERE and THERE isn’t right after you get started or when you’re almost there, it’s in the middle. That’s where vision leaks and people lose hope. This is the critical leg of the journey. Find something to celebrate your progress – any progress. You must work to renew their sense of hope that they really are going to get there some day.

What do you think of his points?

What are a few things you know about leadership?

11 thoughts on “3 Things Bill Hybels Knows about Leadership”

  1. Sounds like a great conference, that’s a terrific line-up of speakers.

    I certainly agree with Bill’s points and like the responses in point 2.

    I would add in that leaders set the tone for the organisation. If there’s problem, leadership’s the problem and if there’s a solution, leadership’s the solution.



  2. I definitely agree that leaders set the tone for the organization – and they do that whether they’re trying to or not. Even mood swings can ripple through your followers. It’s eerie.

    Thanks for the addition, Darren.

  3. Interesting article, Geoff. I like the visual of a trail guide, leading a bunch of hikers from here to there. Certainly the middle of the hike is hardest as the trail becomes more difficult, and the leader must help some of the hikers get up a hill. The conversation and motivation that the leader provides can make all the difference in a hike. Motivate and encourage, and your followers can make it to the top of almost any mountain. Have a negative attitude and disparage the weak behind you and you’ll find everyone deserting you. Communication in leadership is key.

    1. Right on, John.

      I ran the Chicago Marathon a few years ago. The beginning was easy, we were all just starting off, the crowds were cheering – and the last few miles were good too, we could sense the finish line and everyone was cheering again. In the middle, however, the crowds dwindled, the sun came out, and any perspective about how far I’d come or how far I had to go evaporated.

  4. Wow.

    Thanks for the link. I would imagine that it was an awesome conference. I hadn’t considered vision leaking before in the middle, but now that you say it, I can see it.

    1. Vision leaks. I think that’s such a brilliant – and accurate – analogy. The same can be said for inspiration. The guys at 37signals say “inspiration is perishable. it’s like fresh fruit or milk: it has an expiration date.”

  5. Geoffrey — great recapitulation of the conference.

    I really like the HERE/THERE piece. It sounds like
    classical marketing. If I can a) persuade you that HERE
    is absolutely horrible, then b) tell you that I can get you
    THERE, which is a panacea in comparison —
    you’ll BEG me to get you THERE!

    Brilliant wisdom for leaders.

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. That was powerful for me too, Kevin. Especially since I’m a “big picture” guy who always wants to jump to vision, the future, and what could be. That’s not always the best place to start if you want to bring people with you!

  6. “Find something to celebrate your progress – any progress. You must work to renew their sense of hope that they really are going to get there some day.”
    I find that an encouraging word, any encouraging word big or little helps get someone up the mountain.
    Thanks for sharing! :)

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