Last week I attended the Global Leadership Summit, a leadership conference I've attended for probably the last 8-9 years. The Summit features a diverse faculty of presenters - some I've heard of before, some I've not - and every year I walk away having learned worthwhile lessons that can shape my leadership and ministry. This year, one of the speakers who grabbed my attention most was a guy I wasn't really familiar with - Jeffrey Immelt, President and CEO of General Electric.
There's lots of things I liked about the session. Immelt interviewed well with Bill Hybels - I always like to see leaders who seem comfortable in their own skin and who seem to genuinely enjoy leading. (Yes, parts of leadership can be a burden and add stress, but when leadership becomes ONLY a burden, it's time to reassess ourselves and/or the situation. We can also have fun leading, and it can be a joy!) Immelt had a number of helpful points and one-liners on how to lead in our volatile context, and the value of simplification. What stood out to me most, however, was the few minutes he and Bill Hybels talked about GE's leadership development university in Crotonville, N.Y.
I hope to look more into how GE leverages Crotonville in the future, but even in the five or so minutes Immelt discussed leadership development at GE I saw immediate overlap with my vision for the Brookside Institute. Here are three things that stood out to me:
1. GE knows leadership development is hugely important, and so they invest in it in significant ways.
In his interview with Bill Hybels, Jeffrey Immelt said GE spends $1 billion dollars each year on training. That's a lot. But I'm guessing they would say every dollar is worth it, because of how it benefits the company. GE's example makes the important case that leadership development won't just happen unless there's intentionality and resources behind it - even if those resources are (significantly) less than $1 billion. With this in mind, I'm grateful for how other leadership at Brookside Church has agreed with me on the value of equipping disciples, allowing for the development of what is now the Brookside Institute.
But this investment by the larger company also says something to the employees of that company. Leadership development is a value. Growth includes training. Leadership needs constant tuning. These are many of the same values that drive the Brookside Institute, and I hope are what attract students to the classes we offer.
2. Classes help create culture.
One of the benefits Immelt mentioned about Crotonville is that the classes and training there are a "chance to promote values and culture." In other words, the classes help keep everyone aligned around the right and important things. At another point, Immelt said "training helps drive the oneness of the company."
Certainly, there are many principles of organizational health and culture (e.g. mission and vision, core values, etc.) that translate not just over to the business sector, but also mean something for churches. Institute classes will embody and stay aligned with these other components of organizational health at Brookside. But while the "culture" of a church certainly isn't less than these principles of organizational health, there are additional things a healthy, faithful church needs to build into its culture as well - things like orthodox, evangelical theology; an understanding of God's Word and how to study it well; an awareness that the Christian faith takes shape in a Christian ethic and Christian mission; and more. These "ingredients" of a healthy church culture are exactly what the Brookside Institute is specifically designed to build and reinforce in the life of Christ's body at Brookside.
Cultural values like those listed above can't just be assumed - they must be taught, promoted, and protected. This is one huge reason Institute classes are so important.
3. The interaction that classes afford peel away layers between leaders and people.
When I preach at Brookside, I'm talking to approximately 1200 adults in what is largely a monologue (that's not necessarily bad, by the way). While each Sunday there are some people who approach me after the sermon with a question, and others I interact with about what was preached later that week, the vast majority of the people listening won't choose to interact with me the same way.
When I'm teaching a class of 20-50 adults, however, the scenario is significantly different. I'm able to interact with the adults one-on-one much more easily. People feel more comfortable asking questions, adding a comment, and graciously disagreeing. The "distance" between teachers and student feels much smaller - I get to hear what people in the class are really thinking, and they get to share their questions and comments.
In his interview with Hybels, Jeffrey Immelt mentioned this value as "peeling away the layers" between leaders and people. When leaders are involved in teaching in smaller classroom settings, they have the opportunity to interact with people they should be hearing from, but maybe wouldn't have a chance to hear from under other circumstances. I love how our Institute classes offer this same interactive opportunity for everyone to learn from each other, and I know I personally benefit from it every class.
What other good examples of leadership development are out there, that you want to mention specifically? What helpful lessons have you learned from leadership development and equipping/training environments in your workplace?
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