We’ve all read articles and heard talks about leading but it is rare to see authentic leadership modeled in a conference presentation. That happened recently at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. With very little warning, one of the speakers cancelled his appearance. Conference chairman and pastor Bill Hybels had the challenge of announcing that speaker Howard Schultz, President of Starbucks, was pulling out of the Summit because of a threatened boycott of Starbucks if he spoke at a church rumored to be “anti-gay.” Some of the boycott leaders sent messages that were vitriolic and the Starbucks Board of Directors made the “tough business decision” to have their chairman withdraw. Hybels told the audience in a seven-minute speech that demonstrated leadership under frustrating and unexpected circumstances. What can we all learn about leadership from the video clip that appears below?
- If you choose to be a leader, expect surprises.
- Before you respond, get the facts.
- Pray about your response and discuss this with your team.
- Avoid hostility, unnecessary criticism or cynical comments.
- Show respect, understanding and the soft answer that deflects wrath and reduces conflict.
- Don’t stoop to the methods of your critics. The boycott leaders condemned and threatened to hurt the Starbucks business. Hybels responded that “Jesus has a better way” and encouraged audience members to write notes of encouragement and support, and even to purchase Starbucks products.
- Don’t try to penalize or get even. The speaker was released from his contract without penalty.
- Be clear about where you stand but state your position in a non-combative way.
- Don’t shy away from stating your frustration. Hybels expressed sadness that the people who threatened the boycott did not get the facts about Willow Creek. They “tend to throw stones first and ask questions later” like some in our political system who “are rapidly making our country unmanageable.”
- Building on Mathew 18, try to meet and reconcile with your critics, bringing an attitude of respect even though you disagree.
- Seek another way forward. The Summit found another speaker and a negative situation was turned into something positive.
How do you react? Please leave a comment.