November Review - Courageous Leadership

A Review of Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels (Approximately a 9-hour read.) 

[I wonder if this title isn't 'Courageous' because Hybels submitted the manuscript to his wife to edit out all his jokes?]

Courageous Leadership is actually based on more than a 100 pages of sermons collected over all of Bill Hybels' time of "repeated challenges" at Willow Creek.  It has taken that long for this book to brew. 

Picture this book as a life-line thrown out to a desperate person dog-paddling for life in dark, frigid waters.  Or,  if you're a strong young athletic swimmer, you may figure you're going to make it on your own.   In other words, an energetic person in (a younger stage of) ministry may get bored with a book like this.  For example, I've heard that some Omega intern leaders at Summit Pacific College found it to be so with this book assignment. 

Maybe the clarion call of this book comes to the leader who's been in it for the long haul with seemingly everything on the line.  Can I go on?

Perhaps about now some of us are reading this review and thinking, I could've written that book. Well, that could be true after a few decades of leading like Bill Hybels, but the real question I'd challenge you with is, Then why haven't you?

Are you demonstrating servanthood and doing deep community?  Are you talking about the local church being the hope of the world or are you viewing things with a critical eye, with a note of bitterness?  Is your vision producing passion to mentor and equip people with new gift discoveries who will in turn build other leaders?  Are you employing strategies in your church that will help it heal and grow and develop into a vital force in your community? 

If your leadership is not all about what you've just read then I'd recommend you stop thinking about writing a book like this and read a book like this!  The truth is we all need a courageous spark to rekindle our calling. 

Crucial to all of the above, according to Hybels, is putting together dream teams of leaders with deep character, competency and chemistry.  Choose with care and lovingly invest in those who show 'street smarts'.  Coach and release people into influence.  Celebrate and reward behaviour you want repeated in your volunteers.  Try using these four powerful words: I believe in you.  

Speaking of 'courageous', Hybels recommends making a top-ten pain file to share with other leaders.  The bottom line to the importance of mentoring is that leaders learn best from other leaders.  Impressively, 75% of Willow Creek's core leadership comes from within the church.  He talks about the beauty of the Church, its power, potential and vitality to literally transform the world we live in like nothing else can. 

Hybels is about putting vision into action and boldly making others aware of the needs, especially those he described (at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit) as "afflicted with affluence".  Make your requests specific.  Invite people boldly to join in the vision.  Ask them to do something.  Many are just waiting to be asked to participate. 

Grand, God-honouring visions are at the core of ten different leadership styles described in this book.  Hybels calls for 50% of one's time to be put into self-leadership.  The focus on majors just feeds ego.  Perhaps the hardest person to lead is ourselves.  I regret at this point that he does not make more of our brokenness, with less of an emphasis on leadership strengths and a little more on knowing our limits and building up weak areas.  This kind of honesty requires not only courageous but safe community. 

The following reflective questions drawn from the book aid in self-discovery and thus self-leadership:

- Am I fasting and praying?
- Have I quieted the noise in my life and waited on God in solitude?
- Is my calling sure and my vision clear?
- Am I developing my gifts?
- Is my character submitted to Christ?
- Can I sustain my pace?
- Is my love for God and people increasing? 
... Does your love for the church need re-igniting?  How will you do that?

Without God at the centre of all we do our leadership abilities will not count for much.  Hybels uses one biblical phrase repeatedly, “fulfill YOUR ministry”; not the one you dream of  (2 Tim. 4:5).  It's not about your accomplishments, rather, it is about what you don't do.  Exercising the 'No' muscle when tempted to take on opportunities that are not your assignment is a Holy Spirit issue.  We must be listening. 

We need courage to persevere.  The context of 2 Cor. 4:17 shows our troubles to be both light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory.  How do we persevere? With our eyes fixed on Jesus' example.  He had a 3-year plan that led to the cross.  Be steadfast, immovable.  Endure, entreats Hybels, because our work is not in vain.  Soon we will see the Son who persevered to the ultimate end and fulfilled his ministry. 

Why is this book entitled Courageous Leadership?  Not because it makes a catchy title.  Frankly, it's because Hybels has seen too many drop out in failure; because it took thirty years of mistakes to make this book; because, in the final analysis, only the Church can change the world.  This is our mandate, to lead courageously.  And, if we 'stay the course' like a sailing friend instructed Hybels, we will steer out of the deep-waters image with which we began.