The Global Leadership Summit is a two-day event that is telecast LIVE from Willow’s campus near Chicago every August to more than 600+ locations in North America. Throughout the fall, Summit events take place in an additional 128 countries—translated into 60 languages. This is the 23rd annual Global Leadership Summit being broadcast around the world to more than 400K people.

Andy Stanley is a leadership expert, author, communicator and pastor.

Below are my notes from Andy’s talk:

If we had it to do all over again, what would we do again?

  • What really worked?
  • This an autopsy on your success.
  • We too often only autopsy our failures.
  • If you don’t know why it’s working you won’t know how to fix it when it’s broken.
  • If you do an autopsy on your success you will might be able to keep from failing going forward.

Why did our organization grow so fast?

  • We had uniquely better product
  • Nobody was doing church like we were doing it in the SE US.
  • There was a church on every corner, but their church was unique.
  • It was not necessarily the best but unique. Nobody was doing it like us.
  • If you are the only hot dog stand in town you don’t have to be that great.
  • It’s not like we were creating a category, but we were uniquely better at what we did.
  • It did what it is supposed to do better than the competition.
  • We created an engaging church experience for the whole family, especially for men.

So what do we do with this now?

  • We are not unique anymore.
  • All of our churches look the same in the US now.
  • We are not uniquely better anymore!

What is there to learn from this?

  • Somebody somewhere is messing with the rules to the prevailing model!

Every industry has a prevailing model. Every industry has shared assumptions, shared assumptions get us into trouble. Every industry is stuck in a certain model, this is not necessarily a bad thing because most of this works. The challenge is that someone out there is pioneering a new model that you don’t know about yet.

While things continue on the same in your organization and you are successful, Somebody somewhere is messing with the rules to the prevailing model!

Discovering uniquely better is virtually impossible. Odds are you will not be the one that discovers it. Recognizing it when it comes along is much easier to accomplish.

Uniquely better is often the by-product of problems that organizations are trying to avoid. If you are not struggling with a problem you are not going to find the solution. The uniquely better model is a solution to an existing problem in most instances.

Successful organizations normally won’t be looking to solve such problems. Uniquely better is often so unique that successful organizations don’t recognize it as being better. The more successful your organization is, the less likely you are to recognize it.

The multi-site church invention was a solution to a problem of not enough room, now it is a church planting strategy.

The more successful your organization is the more likely you won’t recognize the uniquely better solution as being better.

Our best hope and responsibility as leaders is to build organizational cultures that recognize rather than resist the uniquely better. You better recognize it when it shows up.

How To Recognize Uniquely Better

  1. You have to be a student, not a critic.
    • I made a commitment to never criticize something I don’t understand.

We naturally resist that we don’t understand or can’t control, our natural tendency to resist it. We must overcome our tendency to do this. The moment you start criticizing you stop learning. When you stop learning you stop leading. When you stop leading your people wither. When you stop leading your leaders will leave.

  • As the leader, you must create a culture that recognizes the uniquely better when it comes. The next generation product or idea almost never comes from the previous generation. Somebody in that next generation will come up with the next uniquely better.
  1. You have to keep your eyes and mind wide open.
    • Listen to outsiders. Outsiders aren’t bound by our assumptions
    • We often say, “That won’t work because …..”
    • The outsiders are ignorant and their ignorance may lead you to the next great thing in your organization.
    • Close minded leaders close minds!
    • If you shut your eyes and close your mind your will close the minds of the people around you. The innovators will leave and take their great ideas with them. Those who love the status quo will remain.
    • You can’t see a closed mind in the mirror.

      Questions that reveal if you have a closed mind: (pay attention to your emotional response to these questions)

      • How do you respond to staff who make suggestions by what they have observed in other organizations? (If you want to shut that down you have to shut that down in yourself)
      • When the last time your organization embraced a big idea that wasn’t your idea?
      • When was the last time you weren’t sure about an initiative but you gave the go ahead anyway?
        • Sam Harris: “We must pay attention to the frontiers of our ignorance.”
      • Are you more curious about what you don’t know?
      • The older and more successful we get the more difficult it is for us to do.
      • When we have quit growing and quit learning, we have quit leading.
  2. Replace HOW with WOW?
    • The moment the leader says “HOW?” the idea dies.
      • How are we going to pay for that?
      • How is it going to work?
    • You must replace HOW with WOW!
    • Say WOW to encourage the idea.
    • WOW ideas to life! Don’t HOW them to death!
    • You can HOW a great idea out the door!
    • We fuel or kill ideas by how we respond to them.
    • Nothing is gained by not knowing about your leaders are dreaming about.
    • You may lose uniquely better by asking HOW!
    • Be WOW Parents! Let’s be careful how we talk to our kids, let’s be WOW parents!
    • “Your greatest contribution to the world may not be something you do but someone you raise”
    • Remember that, “Close minded leaders close minds and hearts.”
  3. Ask uniquely better questions
    • Recognize rather than resist.
    • You must constantly look for uniquely better. If you’re looking for uniquely better, you’re set up to find it.

Uniquely Better Questions

    1. Is this unique?
    2. What would make it unique?
      • Unique attracts attention.
    3. Is there something we could do to make this unique?
      • Not trying to make a new category. Do something better with something that already exists.
      • Sony invented portable music then Apple took it and made it uniquely better.
    4. Is it better?
    5. Is it better….Really?

Why are these questions important? Because you are on the hunt for uniquely better! You will be more prone to see when it comes along if you get in the habit of asking these questions consistently.

Will we be positioned to recognize it?

  • Keep your eyes, mind, hands, and heart wide open so you recognize uniquely better when it comes along.
  • Leaders, we want to be the wind in somebody’s else sails when that next uniquely better idea comes along.


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