Notes From This Year’s GLS (part 2)


The second session of the GLS consisted of an interview with Pixar’s big cheese, Ed Catmull. In some ways I found this session the most stimulating and thought-provoking. He talked through the usual stuff of team morale, and long-term culture building, but three things in particular got me thinking:

  1. Outside work/research has inside benefits. We sometimes think that outside commitments take us away from what needs to be done back at the ranch (which is obviously true). What we don’t always consider is the ways in which outside work can benefit the work we’re doing at home. New environments, new ways of doing things, new articles, ideas, networks can all have a positive impact on our own situation, and so we should pro-actively encourage people to be seeing and doing in other contexts, not simply because it’s good for the wider kingdom, but because our own people stand to gain from it.
  2. Silent retreats are crucial. I don’t think he means you’re not allowed to make any noise at all. I think he rather means a retreat on your own, as opposed to with your team. He described it as time to ‘sort out the chattering in your head,’ which, though it may make him sound crazy, many busy people can understand! Get off the treadmill, step back, gain a sense of perspective and priorities again. It’s about taking care of your soul, which, again, ultimately has a positive impact on your health, family, work etc etc.
  3. Your physical work environment matters. He describes how he arrived at Disney to find low grade workers in poorly maintained open plan cubicles, while execs were on the upper floor in plush offices. He worked out pretty fast that physical barriers (walls, doors) and distance also created social and emotional barriers and distance. And so he rearranged the work space into something more conducive to collaborative creativity.

I guess the reason I found these ideas so stimulating is because I haven’t really given them much thought. I do a bit of outside stuff, but not necessarily all that strategically; I often consider myself far too busy to get away on my own; and I work at home in my study, and the rest of the staff work elsewhere – that’s just how it’s always been, right!? I don’t pretend to have any answers on this, but I’m definitely convicted that it’s something I need to give some more considered thought to.

Any thoughts or wisdom out there on this stuff???

Lessons from this year’s GLS (part 1)









The Global Leadership Summit rolled into a town near us (via DVD) a couple of weeks back, and, as usual it was a good mix of stimulating thoughts on how to lead better. A couple of talks were particularly enjoyable from my perspective, and I’ll give you the highlights from the first here:

Session 1 – Bill Hybels . . . “Leadership Intangibles”

– leadership is not about presiding or protecting, but leading people forward
– humility crucial to learning leadership from others . . . here’s Bill’s 5 ‘intangibles’ of leadership . . .

1. Grit . . . Predictor of success not just IQ, but a steely determination. Gritters aren’t quitters. Great leaders have the ability to persevere in unfavourable circumstances. [not sure I entirely agreed with this point, but thought provoking nonetheless]

2. Self-awareness . . . crucial to being aware of our own strengths, weaknesses etc. and therefore how to improve, and where to staff. Be aware of the formative power of upbringing; we need help from others with our blindspots . . . Need to solicit honest feedback from lots of people. It’ll be painful but worth it.

3. Resourcefulness . . . Quick learners, curious, ‘learning agility.’ Great leaders tend to be great readers – thinkers, creative problem solvers etc.

4. Selfsacrificing love . . . Deep personal concern for your people (Bill shared some thoughts from 2 Sam 21-23). Do workers feel deep personal love and concern coming from their managers? Love never fails (1 Cor 13:8). Love creates a high performance culture. Starts with senior leader. Of all these 5 qualities this is the most important.

5. Create a sense of meaning/purpose . . . What, how, why – in ever narrowing concentric circles. Getting people to answer the what and the how in light of the why engenders a sense of meaning. You need a ‘white hot why.’

There were many other useful insights. You can track down the talks online – a worthwhile exercise to do with a team. What do you think? What’s he missed? What should be added/subtracted/corrected?

The Pastor Theologian

pastor theologian

I’ve just finished reading Todd Wilson and Gerald Hiestand’s book The Pastor Theologian in which they argue for a renewed vision of an ancient practise.

In essence the book argues that the academy and the church have drifted too far apart resulting in the ecclesial anaemia of the academy, and the theological anaemia of the church. The authors argue we need ‘ecclesial theologians’ – people who are rooted in pastoral ministry, yet theologically equipped and active at the highest levels. Toward the end of the book they off some suggested strategies to help aspiring pastor-theologians develop:

  • Get a PhD
  • Staff the vision
  • Get networked
  • Guard your study time
  • Read ecclesial theology (and other stuff)
  • Build study and writing leave into your schedule
  • Earn buy-in from your leadership
  • Let the necessity of love trump your love of truth

While I might not necessarily agree with everything in the book I’d highly recommend it to those who may be thinking in this area – it’s well written, cogently argued, and highly stimulating.

Nuggets from Fergie’s Leading


I was recently at a conference in Scotland, kicking my heels in the evenings and, in pursuit of a supermarket sandwich, stumbled across Alex Ferguson’s new book Leading. Worth a skim I figured. In truth I found myself thoroughly captivated and devoured the whole thing cover to cover in 48 hours (whilst not skipping conference sessions you’ll understand!). I absolutely loved it, and came across many great nuggets from a guy who’s been leading a serious organization for three decades. Here are some of his pearls of wisdom:

  • Step back so you can see better. He used to run the training sessions til his assistant, Archie Knox, told him to hand it over and sit in the stand. As a result he had a much better understanding of the big picture – players habits, moods, work rate, form etc. So step back and get some perspective.
  • Fergie’s check-list for the characteristics of a good captain are an appetite for the job, understanding of the boss’ aims and desires, an ability to convey those desires, and someone respected by others. We might translate those as desire, ability, and character.
  • One step at a time – nothing is built overnight, and no sustainable work can be bought or created in a short space of time. Long tenures are critical to building a great organisation.
  • Celebrate wins, but never become complacent. If you think you’ve arrived it’s a sure fire sign that you’ve begun to decline. Keep working to be better, all the time.
  • Creating a culture is really important – it enables everyone who comes in to know what you value, and it creates community around a common purpose
  • Hire the best you can, but also invest within. Deliberate investment in the young yields the potential of a class act who understands the culture of the organisation.
  • Don’t micromanage – empower others and trust them to do their jobs – ‘working with, and through, others is by far the most effective way to do things.’
  • Good leaders need to manage themselves – a healthy diet, sleep, and exercise are all critical to long term leadership
  • Consider details and use innovation if it can help. Fergie talks about developments in Sports Science and nutrition – he’d pay attention to the little details and improvements that could make a big difference.

Now, Fergie’s far from perfect. He freely admits to losing his temper at times, and practically neglecting his family. This book needs to be read with a discerning eye. Nevertheless there’s an awful lot of good, helpful, and downright entertaining material in here. So treat yourself – get a copy, and get it read!

Wise Words on Words

waltke prov

Bruce Waltke’s commentary on Proverbs has a lovely paragraph summing up the Proverbial wisdom on how we should use our words. It comes in the form of a little phrase with an acronym – ‘Gentle BREATH’

  • Gentle (as opposed to harsh – Prov 15:1)
  • B – boasts not (Prov 27:1-2)
  • R – restrained (Prov 19:19; 17:14, 27-28)
  • E – eavesdrops not (no gossip – Prov 11:12-13
  • A – Apt (at the right time in the right way – Prov 15:2)
  • T – thoughtful (not rash – Prov 15:28; 18:13)
  • H – honest (Prov 8:7; 12:17-22)

Nice eh? Anything you’d want to add?