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Real Leaders Figure It Out!

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A pair of skis on the edge of a dangerous cliff in Whistler, British Columbia.

Big Idea: test and judge the resourcefulness of your leaders.

I’ll start with a story.  Bill H. skied once, enjoyed it, and thought he’d like to get better at the sport.  So, the young man expressed his interest to his father.  Shortly after the conversation, Bill’s father presented him with train tickets and a hotel reservation.  Bill was to pack up his gear, leave the next day, take a train from Chicago to Colorado, and learn to ski at a resort.  His father gave him two instructions:

  • “Figure it out.”
  • “Don’t call me.”

Bill packed up, took the train, and when he arrived, realized that he was about 40 miles from the resort.  How do I get from here to there?  He figured it out.

When Bill took his first ski lift to the top of the mountain (12,000 feet), he thought: “How do I get down this mountain in one piece?”  He figured it out.

Bill Hybels was 11 years old at that time.

As a young man, his father gave him many opportunities to be resourceful…to figure it out.

As a leader, how resourceful are you?  This challenge may be personal – or it may apply to those emerging leaders that report to you.

I heard Bill Hybel’s story last week.  I attended The Global Leadership Summit and drank in lessons on leadership from diverse speakers, such as Jeffrey Immelt (CEO of GE), Carly Fiorina (past-CEO of HP), author Susan Cain, author Joseph Grenny, filmmaker Tyler Perry, and many more.  Bill Hybels started the summit in 1995; today, the 2-day summit reaches about 170,000 leaders worldwide and is translated into 42 languages.

Hybels kicked off the summit with this thought: great leadership is relentlessly developmental.  To that end, Hybels shared 5 steps for growing “emerging leaders” in our teams and organizations:

Place the emerging leader (EL) in a high-challenge role:

  1. Assign the EL to a short-term task force or project
  2. Provide real-time feedback
  3. Coach & mentor the EL
  4. Include classroom training and seminars

Regarding that first point about the task force or project:

  1. Should result in either Success or Failure
  2. EL must take charge
  3. Must involve working with a wide variety of people across the organization
  4. Has a deadline and deliverables
  5. Results will be evaluated by a Senior Leader


Application: how can you test and judge the resourcefulness of your leaders?

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