Bill Hybels could be running a company, says Jack Welch. Or a country. But he’s not. Instead he runs a church.
Willow Creek, the congregation that he founded 35 years ago, draws 23,000 to services on a typical Sunday.
Not content to deliver sermons, Hybels and his team run a pop-up business school called the GlobalSummit. Each year, they bring an impressive lineup of speakers—such as Jim Collins, Colin Powell and Jack Welch—to teach leadership to pastors and laypeople.
“Willow Creek offers a deep set of lessons about organizational life that I have not been able to learn anywhere else,” says Babson College president and former Limited Brands COO Len Schlesinger.
“The quality of the teaching is extraordinary,” he says. “The fact that Willow Creek is a church and the fact that it is evangelical mean that some people may have a great deal of difficulty with it, but they skip it at their loss.”
Highlights from the 2010 conference:
Bill Hybels on stirring change:
“Leaders move people from here to there. … The first play is not to make ‘there’ sound wonderful. The first play is to make ‘here’ sound awful.”
Jim Collins on “the undisciplined pursuit of more”:
“Regulate growth, regulate reach. Do we have all our key seats filled with fantastic people? If the answer is no, we must resist growth until all those seats are filled with fantastic people.”
Jack Welch on motivating staff:
“One of the jobs of a leader is to make guys like me feel 64, with hair. Leaders have a gene that says, ‘I love to see people grow. I love to reward people.’ They’re not mean-spirited. … They don’t have a lot of envy. Envy is a terrible thing.”
— Adapted from “How Willow Creek Is Leading Evangelicals by Learning From the Business World,” Jeff Chu, Fast Company.