Last week I spent two days at the Catalyst 2012 leadership conference. I and 13,000 other leaders journeyed to Atlanta to hear from a dozen speakers, engage in worship, and enjoy fellowship with old friends and new. It was two days packed with learning and challenge. All leaders need to learn and to be challenged. This conference allowed me to learn from successful leaders and to be challenged with new perspectives and ideas.
Andy Stanley delivered the opening and closing talks of the Catalyst conference. He is a pastor and the founder of North Point Ministries in Alpharetta, GA. North Point was formed in 1995 and has grown to be an incredibly influential organization. The number of changed lives is impossible to count and how they’ve changed can’t be measured, but 30,000 people attend worship at one of North Point’s five campuses every Sunday. Andy is also the author of several books.
Andy opened his talk saying, “information and insight alone do not a leader make.” The most informed and most insightful people are not necessarily the best leaders. I’ve known many very, very smart people. Some knew a lot about technology, others about economics and finance, or about history, politics, and culture, or theology and the Bible, or how to fix things, or sports and entertainment, … and so on. Whatever needs to be known about a given subject, I (and probably you) know someone who can most likely answer your question. I love and appreciate these people for what they know, AND I depend on them, because I’m not super smart about any particular subject. Does their knowledge make them a leader, though? Not necessarily.
The same goes for people of great insight. First, what is insight? I call it the ability to see the unseen. People with insight are able to look into a situation and detect perceptions, relationships, and influences that are not obvious to others. These insights add color and texture to our understanding of a situation and often make the difference between failure and success in navigating problems. I love and appreciate people with great insight, too. I’m not one of those folks. So I make sure I know who to turn to when I need insight. Once again, though, being insightful does not necessarily mean being a leader.
So if “information and insight alone do not a leader make,” what does? Andy Stanley said that a person’s response to three things makes a leader:
- Unexpected opportunity,
- Unavoidable adversity, and
- Unquestionable calling.
I plan to unpack each of these in a future article, so for now I only point out Andy’s emphasis on the leader’s response to these three factors. He said that at any given time, a leader is bumping up against one of these three things. How the leader responds to the unexpected opportunity, or to the unavoidable adversity, or to the unquestionable calling determines the growth and development of that person’s leadership and their leadership influence. Andy said that God uses these three things to shape leaders and that God gets the most mileage for shaping leaders out of unavoidable adversity.
I also believe that something else is important before that response. It is important that the leader first detects and understands the unexpected opportunity, or the unavoidable adversity, or the unquestionable calling. My work with leaders suggests that most are highly focused on the daily challenges of leading their organization and it is difficult to slow down and step back to detect the specific nature of personal opportunities, adversities, and callings. How can a leader have a specific and planned response to these without having first detected them?
In the future, I will write more about unexpected opportunity, unavoidable adversity, and unquestionable calling. For now, I challenge you to pull out a sheet of paper and write on it those three phrases. Leave lots of space in between them for notes. As you go through your day write down events, situations, emails, phone calls, meetings, readings, news stories, or any other element of your day that might point to an opportunity, adversity, or calling. After several days, examine your notes. Share your notes with a trusted and insightful friend. Tell them what you did and ask for their thoughts.
I would VERY much like to hear from you, either in comments below, or via email. What did you discover? How did you or do you plan to respond? I would like to collect some stories to share in future articles.