‘LEADERS NEED A HEART TO CARE’

 

By LORETTA FULTON

The usual high-energy opening from the founder of the Global Leadership Summit was missing this year, replaced by a statement of confession and contrition from the president of the association that sponsors the summit.

In April, the founder of the summit and lead pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, Bill Hybels, resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. The summit carried on Aug. 9-10 at host sites in 750 cities located in 130 countries. This was the eighth year for Hardin-Simmons University to be one of the 600 host sites in North America.

The president of the Willow Creek Association, Tom De Vries, got right to the point in his opening remarks. Willow Creek Association is separate from Willow Creek Community Church, with different leadership. 

“Twenty weeks ago, the world around Willow shifted on its axis,” De Vries said.

He noted the allegations against Hybels and added that, “there is no path for him to return.”

Just before the two-day Summit began, Willow Creek Community Church’s lead pastor, Heather Larson, announced that she was resigning immediately. The church’s board of elders already had announced intentions to resign. Steve Carter, Willow Creek’s lead teaching pastor, had previously resigned. 

The allegations against Hybells came to light in news stories published in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, and other media. It was a steep fall for the leaders of one of the nation’s largest megachurches. De Vries, president of Willow Creek Association, said the association is beginning a journey of healing and creating a new environment.

“We all need to be voices of healing,” he said.

Lead-off presenter, Craig Groeschel, co-founder and senior pastor of Life.Church, didn’t get far into his talk before addressing the issue, coming close to tears.

“Like many of you,” Groeschel said, “I’m grieving deeply.”

Groeschel noted that he is a husband and father of four daughters. He also had a sister who was sexually abused. Leaders, who Groeschel described as anyone with influence, cannot abuse their power. Any misuse of power, he said, is sinful, hurtful, and reprehensible.

“We can make excuses. We can make a difference,” Groeschel said. “But we cannot make both.”

“Leaders need a heart to care,” Groeschel said.

He cited Jesus as the perfect example of a leader. He loved to befriend sinners, showing them grace and love.

“He had a passion to inspire,” Groeschel said.

People are looking for honesty, integrity, and vulnerability in their leaders, Groeschel said, not perfection. Leadership isn’t about always being right. It’s about being the kind of person that others love to follow.

“In this broken world,” Groeschel said, “it’s time for great leaders to stand up.”

Groeschel was followed in the opening session by Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail, Apple. In a Q&A format, with John Maxwell asking the questions, Ahrendts said she was raised on Midwestern core values and still lives by those.

“They are the foundation of everything you are,” Ahrendts said.

She said she believes she is here for a reason, for a higher purpose. As for her position with Apple, Ahrendts said she believes it is the job of a leader to communicate. Apple employs 66,000 team members globally, and in order to communicate with them, weekly videos are prepared. The team members provide feedback, sharing ideas and telling leaders what is wrong.

In answer to a question about motivating or inspiring employees, Ahrendts advised putting yourself in the employees’ position. Don’t talk above them, she said, talk to them.

“Remember where you came from,” she advised.

Maxwell asked Ahrendts how she shines her light as a person of faith. She said she has a morning routine that includes prayer and meditation. She asks God to guide her in her position as a leader.

“And then I hang on for the ride,” she said.

 

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