You Can Have Courage or Comfort-Not Both.

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Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of leadership, the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit is one conference that has something for everyone. I would highly recommend carving out the two-day time span to attend, you will not be disappointed.


This year’s conference once again proved to be challenging, inspiring, and  motivating. I was especially thankful given some new challenges on the horizon. The 2013 faculty featured an array of business leaders, political leaders, and church leaders.  At the end of the two days, my brain was full of ideas, stories, knowledge, and excitement. It has taken me some time to unpack it all and boil it down to my top three thoughts, but I think I have come up with the three things I want to work on over the next year.


1. Grow in being a multiplier, not a diminisher. (Liz Wiseman)

Liz Wiseman, President of the Wiseman Group, spoke on the multiplier effect, the idea that the best leaders make everyone smarter.  Multipliers simply approach life with a different set of glasses. Diminishers believe people won’t figure it out without me. Multipliers believe people are smart and will figure it out. When Liz surveyed people about their best boss, the biggest difference was that they believed they were smart. She expressed the importance of making those around you owners in the process and allowing them to express their views and thoughts and creativity.  In my own life, whether in a leadership role or not, I want to work on looking at those around me as smart, capable individuals.  This is an area I know I can grow in and her message hit home.   I am going to get her book and really try to view the world through the eyes of a multiplier.

2. Leadership is intentional influence.  (Joseph Grenny)

Joseph Grenny is an accomplished business author and co-founder of VitalSmarts. Several things stood out to me from his session. He opened up with a simple statement, “Change behavior. Change the world.”  His definition of leadership includes the idea of intentional influence-the idea that to lead you must change the way people feel about a behavior. You have to influence their frame so that bad behavior feels bad and good behavior feels good.  Bad behavior becomes harder and more conscious while good behavior becomes easier. You have to teach values with principles and connect what you doing with why you are doing it.  Influence is something I believe anyone can have and perhaps it is those not at the top that have the most influence. The people you spend the most time with can be most profoundly impacted by influence.  For an awesome real life example of influence in action, check out Jamiibora.

3. You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both. (Dr. Brene Brown)

If you do anything in the next 24 hours, watch Dr. Brene Brown‘s TED talks. I promise your world will be rocked and you will not regret the 15 minutes you spend listening to her.  Dr. Brown was the most personally challenging speaker of the two days. Her message spoke straight to my heart.  She described the two irreducible needs of humans-love and belonging. We have in us the desires to be seen and loved, to belong, and to be brave. In Dr. Brown’s words, “we cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful parts of ourselves to be seen.”  To do this, she outlined a few steps which I have written everywhere.

1. Growth through connection. –A leader models the courage to ask the questions and does not pretend to have all the answers.

2. You can’t give what you don’t have. – If you judge yourself for asking for help, you are judging others when you offer help. We cannot give help when we cannot receive help.

3. Professing vs. Practicing. -Love is a practice. We lose people when our values do not match our actions.

She finished her talk with the exhortation to be brave.  To be a leader who is vulnerable means to be a leader who is brave. Who is willing to step into the arena and get their butt kicked.  Who is willing to take criticism, but who recognizes that those who are on the outside of the arena are those most often quick to criticize. Don’t let them. Take your values, someone who loves you, and a sense of courage with you. And as I titled this point, at the end of the day, you can have courage or comfort, but you can’t have both.

There were many other nuggets of truth I gathered throughout the two days which I am sure will show up in future posts.  I walked away inspired to dream big and have the courage to step out and move forward on the big ideas in my head.  As one of the speakers said, “inside each of us is a vision so cool, if we knew it would succeed, we would drop everything and pursue it.” So today I am going to pursue some of those dreams and perhaps I will inspire you along the way to do the same.