a heart check-up for leaders

You can’t lead if no one follows.

On the other hand, a lot of people don’t think they are leaders because they don’t have a business title or position, but others are watching them and following their example all the time. We can all learn to lead better.

I had the privilege last week of attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Bill Hybels, the founder of the Summit, spoke first. He shared three hard-fought leadership lessons from his experience. This is my adaptation of his first point:


“Oftentimes, leaders with the highest level of vision and passion have the lowest awareness of the spirit of their team.” ~ Bill Hybels

Leaders can get so fired up about their vision and strategies that followers begin to pay the price. The leader starts to view everyone else as caring less about the goals than they do. The leader then determines that if the followers don’t care about the vision, then the leader doesn’t have to worry about the followers’ heart… and those followers become expendable.

This attitude may not get expressed out loud, but everyone can feel it.

Some ways to protect against this error and truly care for your people:

  • Do an objective/outside evaluation. Bring in a professional team, get a coach, ask a friend. Find out what your followers are thinking and feeling. Have someone else give you honest feedback about how you are treating your team (or students, or children…) with your attitudes and actions.
  • Make sure the leader and team “own” the desired culture. If the leader does not lead by example, others will get frustrated with the hypocrisy and not embrace or apply the culture either.
  • Get serious about training the leaders who manage other people. Some people simply should not lead. If others are continually getting hurt, discouraged, held back, or frustrated by a leader – do something about it! Hybels said, “People join organizations, but leave managers.”
  • Increase the level of candor in evaluations/reviews. An easy format to use is the Start, Stop, Continue categories… and be specific! People (including children!) want desperately to know, “How am I doing?” They can’t get better or grow in areas, if they don’t know what it is that they need to improve.

The kindest form of feedback is the truth. 

  • Practice a ruthless commitment to conflict resolution. View conflicts not as burdens, but rather as opportunities to strengthen the relationship. (more on this area in a coming post!)

WOW! I have plenty to work on here… and that was just his first point! I’ll write about more of the sessions in upcoming posts.

Is there anything you would add to this list? How do you care about the heart and spirit of the people who follow you?

blind spots

Traveling down the highway the other day, we saw many people texting or talking on their phone as they drove. Their speed was erratic, and they were constantly swerving from one lane to another. I felt nervous and in danger anywhere close to them, I and encouraged my husband to put some distance between us as quickly as possible.

It came to my mind that this dangerous behavior is very obvious to others, although the texting-driver may mistakenly think they have everything under control. From behind, we watch the unintentional lane changes and make adjustments for their inconsistent speed. When we pass along the right – because they are usually blocking the passing lane – we have never been wrong in our initial hypothesis as to the cause of their erratic driving. They are often so intent on their communication that they do not look up or even notice as we pass by.

Blind Spots  = obvious to everyone except me

I can have blind spots in many areas of my life. I am often so busy with my own tasks and concerns that I am completely unaware of how my attitudes and behavior are affecting others. I hate to think of how often a family member has to move out of my way for their own protection, or how often a co-worker has to make adjustments for my erratic actions.  I don’t want to be a danger to others. 

One tool we use in our organization is the 360° review; a feedback survey process that allows those around me – supervisor/director, co-workers, direct reports – to let me know how I am doing in my leadership. Their confidential responses are correlated with my self-assessment answers, and a trained feedback facilitator communicates the information during a personal appointment. The feedback confirms obvious strength and weakness areas, encourages strengths (those others saw, but I didn’t mention), and warns me about the dreaded blind spots.

The first time I went through a 360° review, it was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I felt clobbered by the negative comments and had a hard time recognizing the positive. I had a great facilitator at the time, and I have since come to greatly appreciate the process. I know that when I invite truthful feedback in my life, I grow in humility and I increase my abilities to work productively and serve others well.

I can hear truth from others in a formal 360° review or simply in vulnerable conversations with friends, family and mentors. It is one of the most important things I can do to ensure that I am a safe person, considerate of others, and aware of my impact… less blind spots! 

Have can you invite someone to give you honest feedback about your blind spots?