The 5 Intangibles of Leadership with Bill Hybels

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The first thing that struck me at the leadership conference was the use of a children’s storybook. You probably already know the one that I’m talking about. If you don’t already know it, I think you can figure it out.

I think you can. I think you can. I think you can. Toot Toot!

It was a good conference, but is every inspiration talk required to reference the Little Engine that Could?

The thing about that little optimistic train is that it had “grit,” which is the first intangible of leadership according to Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels led the opening session and talked about those aspects of leadership that can be developed, but not easily taught—the intangibles.

First is “grit,” which Hybels described as being almost stubbornly committed to an idea. If a leader is to succeed, she or he must be willing to take on tough projects and then—here’s the important bit—stick with them to the bitter end. Grit is built with difficulty; it is opposed to ease. And if you want to develop it, you need to volunteer for the difficult tasks and learn from gritty people.

The second intangible of leadership is self-awareness. Leaders must be aware of their blind spots, how their attitudes and actions are being influenced by past hurts or those things that they think they do well when the reality is anything but. Unfortunately, blind spots are—by their nature—impossible for someone to find on their own. If we want to find them and lead effectively, it is going to require communication and some potentially uncomfortable truths coming out.

The third intangible is resourcefulness. The ability to think on your feet, be curious, and learn things quickly is vital to leadership. If you can’t experiment in the face of difficulty, you’ll give up. Resourceful people figure it out, and the only way to learn it is to put yourself into confusing situations.

The fourth intangible of leadership is one that probably wouldn’t pop up in most business leadership talks—self-sacrificing love. Leaders must love their followers, possibly to their own detriment. Where culture tends to encourage narcissism, the leaders who truly inspire and create followers for life are the ones who put others first. If followers feel that their leader has a personal concern for them and their interests, the whole organization is going to run more smoothly.

The final intangible is in being able to give followers a sense of meaning in their work. Followers may see your grit, your ability to work through blind spots, your resourcefulness, and your love for them, but if they don’t know have a sense of meaning in their work, they may flounder. Most people know the “what” and the “how” of an organization, but not the “why” of the job. Cast your vision and help them answer that question.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a post on Givers, Takers, and Matchers and what each type of person does to an organization.

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