The Global Leadership Network is a community of leaders dedicated to growing together and powered by the Willow Creek Association. The Global Leadership Summit exists to transform Christian leaders around the world with an injection of vision, skill development, and inspiration for the sake of the local church.
The importance of hope cannot be overstated. Hopeful leaders instill confidence in others that a better future is possible.
Hopeful leaders are constantly and relentlessly in pursuit of what ought to be. Leading in hopeful anticipation of that which will come to be—and painting a picture of what’s next.
Hopeful leaders are constantly and relentlessly in pursuit of what ought to be.
The vision compels you to greatness. Not your greatness compelling you to come up with a vision.
I’ve observed that the most hopeful, vision-centered leaders have a predictable set of characteristics. Hope-filled leaders are:
1) Optimistic about the future. Even when sales are down, or morale is low or the budget must be cut back, hopeful leaders believe tomorrow holds great opportunities for personal and organizational success. They are forward-thinking, inspiring, enthusiastic and positive.
2) Focused on the best in their people, not the worst. Hopeful leaders are encouraging. Rather than browbeat their team over yesterday’s failures, they focus on the unique strengths of every employee.
3) Never satisfied, but always content. Hopeful leaders are always moving toward a goal, but they don’t allow it to steal their joy. They seem happy where they are but refuse to stay there.
4) Accepting of change. Hopeful leaders embrace change in their lives and organizations because they know this is often the fastest path to growth and improvement. They have a “bring it on” attitude and invite change with open arms. They are innovative and try new things at the risk of failing.
5) Embrace failure. Failure is not final or fatal. It’s required. A scary vision means courage is paramount. What did you learn from your last failure? What did you learn from the mistake in the last venture that will now get you to the next level?
6) Inclusive, not exclusive. Hopeful leaders invite others into their vision. They are confident in where they are going, and able to get others involved. People won’t willingly follow you until they can see how they share in the future you envision.
7) Personally bought in. A hopeful leader’s vision propels them personally. It stirs them up and drives them forward. They don’t wait on someone else to hand them a vision and they don’t need to draft one with pen and paper; it’s already inside of them.
Hopeful leaders embrace change in their lives and organizations because they know this is often the fastest path to growth and improvement.
8) Able to deliver. Do what you said you would do. Follow through. No matter how significant or insignificant the task or assignment, get it done. He who is faithful with little will be faithful with much. Credibility is built over time because of hundreds and hundreds of small assignments done well.
9) Repeat, repeat, repeat. One of the ways great teams become great is through repetition. Great sports teams thrive on repeating. Creating excellence through repetition. I can remember growing up around coaches, and I constantly heard, “Run it again.” Over and over and over. And then again. Even if we ran the play to perfection, we heard, “Run it again.” Think about the best communicators you know. They use repetition constantly to drive home a point. Think about great parents you know. They use repetition in disciplining and molding their children. Great coaches and great leaders and great communicators and great parents repeat. Consistency counts. Run it again.
Think about your leadership and look at the list again.
What is one thing you can do today to instill hope and a positive vision in the people who follow you?
In the mid-nineties I went through a crisis that prompted a shift in my relationship with God. I went from asking God to bless me and my life, to saying I’ll do whatever you want me to do and go wherever you want me to go. I was working in architecture at the time, and it seemed that God was telling me to stay in that business and volunteer and provide resources to ministries.
I started getting different nudges from God.
Then over a four-year period, I started getting different nudges from God. I began to feel a stronger pull toward ministry. I realize now that God was preparing me for my work here at the Global Leadership Network (formerly Willow Creek Association WCA).
At that time, the GLN was young and moving fast. God started opening doors to expand internationally, and the organization was trying to figure out what it was supposed to do with these new opportunities.
An act of obedience to step into the unknown
During that season, I volunteered at a GLN conference in Sweden. That’s where I met Gary Schwammlein (President Emeritus) for the first time. When he asked to talk with me, I thought it was to discuss my volunteering and helping out the team. But a job opportunity had opened up, and he asked me to interview for it. I didn’t have any background in conference operations, but I sensed this was a calling from God and I made a decision to be obedient. I took the job on the international team in March of 1999.
God was giving me opportunities to do things I never thought I could do.
From 1999 to 2005, the GLN was sharing the innovations of Willow Creek Community Church with church leaders in the U.S. and many other countries. In my new role, I managed the operations for international conferencing, and worked on everything from travel to building and working with overseas teams, to writing training for event managers, producers and tech directors. God was giving me opportunities to do things I never thought I could do.
By 2003, international leaders started asking us to bring The Global Leadership Summit overseas. It was an exciting and challenging season.
Making or breaking the future of the Summit
We began brainstorming with international leaders and piloted some ideas to bring the Summit to their countries. We didn’t know it then, but these brainstorming sessions would turn out to make or break the future of the Summit internationally.
Initially we thought we could do live events and satellite them to different regions. But when we tried, it didn’t work. The complexity of providing immediate translation was a huge problem, the number of days a live speaker would need to commit to was not feasible, the cost was prohibitive and the model not easily scalable.
Some even said, “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. It will never work!”
So, we went back to brainstorming and decided to try video casting after the live event. The church had started doing that with its regional campuses, so we adopted the model and applied it to what we were trying to do internationally.
Gary Schwammlein went on the road for 180 days that year trying to persuade leaders to bring the Summit to their country via this video cast idea. People had major doubts. Some even said, “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. It will never work!” But it was the only model that provided good translation of the content, affordability for attendees and flexibility to contextualize the event.
Conviction takes the lead
Thanks to Gary’s conviction (and arm twisting) that year, the GLS now takes place in more than 135 countries today. It’s working!
Local teams are able to contextualize the values and principles in their location and learning environments. Each location provides context, translation, application and facilitation. Increasingly, overseas teams are taking even greater ownership, providing additional localized worship, programming and live local speakers. The GLS has become a leadership tool to encourage leaders to accomplish their vision of transformation for their communities.
It’s the impact and transformation I witness every day that excites me the most. My bottom line motivation is to mark and impact people on a large scale with eternal values.
When I got into this role, I didn’t see how I could impact people on a large scale. I actually thought I’d probably be in this position for five years, but God hijacked me—and I’m still here.
There’s an entrepreneurial nature in our work here that continues to excite me. With God’s guidance, we get clarity as we grow. Before working at the GLN, I didn’t realize what an important role the Holy Spirit can have in our lives. Listening to the Holy Spirit speak into what you do each day is humbling. When I started, I didn’t dream we could be in all the countries we’re in now. But just look how God has moved!
The GLS confronts injustice
When I see injustices in our world, my heart breaks. When I see a corrupt government hurting the people in that country, my heart breaks. It’s not the way God designed the world to be.
My most thought-provoking encounter with injustice was when I took a trip to the DR Congo to visit sites for the Summit. I had never seen poverty at that level before. The country had been ravaged by war—not one family escaped. Rape was a common weapon in that war and nearly every family had someone who had been sexually brutalized. Nothing in that country worked right.
I didn’t dream we could be in all the countries we’re in now. But just look how God has moved!
And there we were, with leaders desperate to change their reality, using any tool available to them. The Global Leadership Summit has since helped this country confront injustice, begin healing and initiate much needed transformation.
It’s so easy to take for granted the teaching we have available here in the States. Yet, in places like the DR Congo, it’s their lifeblood.
My role in fighting injustice is to create the opportunity for better leadership through the Summit—to help people envision how to use their influence to fight injustice. I know life will never be perfect until we’re in heaven, but I think we’re here as agents of redemption to reflect Christ-likeness until the end. I’m grateful to be able to use my gifts to build God’s Kingdom here on earth.
What is God calling you to?
When I came on staff, it was out of obedience to a calling. I used to live my life and pray for God to fulfill my agenda. But when I asked God for his agenda, and when I said yes to that calling, it changed my life. I don’t want to live any other way. If I had not pursued God’s calling for my life, I would have missed out on so much.
I don’t feel like I joined a Christian organization; I feel like a joined a community of people who want to live out biblical principles together and with others. We have a common goal to build the Church globally. I love working with people who have that kind of commitment.
We all have influence and we are responsible for stewarding that influence, improving our abilities, refreshing our vision and networking with like-minded leaders. You are a difference maker in your community, family, organization, city, country and beyond.
Ben Sherwood will be joining the faculty for the 2019 Global Leadership Summit.
Former Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks; Former President, Disney ABC Television; Best-Selling Author
Ben Sherwood served as Co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks and President of Disney ABC Television Group from 2014 to 2019. Sherwood oversaw a portfolio of global entertainment and news properties, including the ABC Television Network, ABC News, ABC-owned television stations, the Disney Channels Worldwide, Freeform, and Disney’s ownership interest in Hulu and AETN, including History Channel, Lifetime and A+E.
At Disney/ABC, Sherwood managed a 12-billion-dollar business with 12,000 employees responsible for the creation of more than 25,000 hours of original content every year.
An award-winning journalist and best-selling author of both non-fiction and fiction books, Sherwood’s articles and essays have appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek.
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You’ve heard the saying, “People won’t remember what you told them, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.”
I honestly can’t stand that saying.
And while many use it as a maxim for leadership, I don’t know any parent who uses it as a maxim for parenting. In fact, the best parents I know employ the opposite approach. They know that part of their role is to be occasionally hated by their kids.
Of course, you can’t ignore feelings, and a spoonful of sugar often helps the medicine go down. But if our primary goal is how people feel, then our leadership is in for a world of hurt.
Think about it: if you want to make most people feel good, all you have to do is treat them like they’re needy and fragile. Flatter them. Appease them. Give them whatever they want. Tell them what they want to hear. Soften honest feedback. Or better yet—avoid feedback altogether. But if you want to actually value people, treat them like they’re strong and powerful, even if in the moment, that doesn’t make them feel good.
If you want to actually value people, treat them like they’re strong and powerful.
In addition to our global executive coaching practice, our company also runs a coaching certification program that trains others on how to create their own coaching practices.
The director of that program, Amanda Inchaustegui, recently reminded me of a conversation she and I had debriefing some hard feedback she had received from a client of hers. Her initial reaction to the feedback was from a pretty disempowered stance.
Now, anyone who knows me is aware that a disempowered attitude is one of my least favorite things in the world. Ironically, I sometimes get disempowered (read: frustrated) when other people are disempowered (which doesn’t solve anything). This time I managed to stay calm but strongly challenged her to notice how disempowered she was choosing to be. To her credit, she responded beautifully and shifted in a powerful way that served both of us during the rest of the conversation.
Afterward she said to me, “I appreciate you for calling me out.”
“I didn’t call you out,” I said, “I called you forward.”
You see, the primary purpose of valuing people is not to make them feel something, but to make them unleash something.
In that moment with Amanda, I was valuing her. Which is to say, I was holding a space for her to step into her true value.
In my work with executives and teams over the years, I’ve come to believe that while people may like you because of how you make them feel, they’ll change the world based on how you help them grow. This means that the best way to treat someone like they’re valuable is to serve them so powerfully that they discover how to unleash their value in ways they’ve never dreamed.
The Problem with Praise
Ever praise someone and it doesn’t land? Ever encourage someone over and over again, but it seems like no matter how much you encourage them, they still struggle to grow?
A little over a year, ago our Director of Development, Jon Roberts, had an idea to take 10 minutes a week during our Wednesday mornings meetings to acknowledge people in the firm for, well, pretty much anything.
We acknowledge wins.
We acknowledge growth.
We acknowledge risks.
We even acknowledge failures.
This was a lot of fun and it has created an opportunity for us to cheer for each other. But the most powerful moments are not when we take time to acknowledge each other. We also take time to acknowledge ourselves.
Which sounds like this, “I’d like to acknowledge myself for…”
And then when one of us is done acknowledging ourselves, someone from the team also acknowledges us for that same thing.
What’s been interesting is how easy it is for people on our team to praise others, but how difficult it is for people to praise themselves in front of others.
I can remember the first time I acknowledged myself during one of our meetings. There were over 20 people on the call from 3 different countries and it felt…weird. But afterward it felt strangely empowering. Like I didn’t have to wait for someone else to “catch me doing something right.” I could actually catch myself doing something right and bring it up to others as a healthy way of celebrating my own life.
Don’t call people out. Call them forward.
As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” What many leaders fail to realize is that the same could be said of praise. “Give a man a compliment, encourage him for a day. Teach a man to affirm himself, encourage him for a lifetime.”
One of my favorite examples of this is from years ago when I lived with a guy named Thomas Bush. Every time we’d get home from dinner, he’d look at me and say, “Well…we did it.” The first few times I looked at him like he was crazy. “We did what, Thomas?” I’d ask. He’d just smile and say, “Dinner. We did dinner. Congratulations.”
Thomas isn’t an idiot. He’s one of the top sales people for a global company that facilitates the entire internet. He was part of a team that consulted Disney Storytellers for “Wreck-It Ralph 2.” And Thomas knows that you gotta celebrate the small wins. You gotta celebrate yourself. The headwind is too strong otherwise. Sometimes you just gotta say, “We did it” and high five because of…dinner.
The Most Important Thing
During our Wednesday meeting when we acknowledge each other and ourselves, the recipient of the acknowledgement is asked a very important question:
“Do you receive it?”
Do. You. Receive. It.
To me, this may be one of the hardest parts of valuing ourselves: receiving the praise we get.
I’ve met and led so many people who can’t hear the praise I give them. It’s like they’re a balloon with holes in it. It doesn’t matter how much I blow into their lives, it never seems to inflate their spirits.
I know them because I’ve been them.
People may like you because of how you make them feel, they’ll change the world based on how you help them grow.
Let me tell you, the solution usually isn’t more praise. The solution is to help the person patch up the holes in their balloon. And practices of self-affection are one of the best ways to do that.
As we regularly remind each other at Novus Global, coaching is a contact sport. So is leadership. If you fail to find the small wins every day to celebrate, you’ll never go the distance. It’s like trying to work out while holding your breath. You can do it for a while, but eventually your muscles need oxygen if you want them to grow. When people are actually able to receive the praise they are given, and cultivate practices of self-affection, they build strength that will enable them to go the distance.
So, don’t just praise people. Treat them like they’re powerful.
And don’t just acknowledge people. Train them in how to acknowledge themselves.
Celebrate the small wins together and watch how your community begins to shift and not only feel strong but actually become strong.
Questions for Reflection
1. Who on your team are you not inviting into their full value? Is there anyone (maybe yourself) you need to call forward?
2. How well do you celebrate your own small wins?
3. How well do you train your team to celebrate their wins?
4. How well do you and your team receive praise from others?