Bill Hybels, on How “Bandwidth” Can Expand Your Leadership

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This week I’ve been working on 2016 plans with our Global Leadership Summit leadership team from Latin America. More than once a strategic question has been put on the table that has drawn us in to “either/or” thinking.

For example, it was asked, “Should we focus on numeric growth this year, or on qualitative improvements?”

In response, I referred to a key leadership insight I had heard from Bill Hybels during a trip to Asia earlier in 2015. Bill’s take on a leader’s “bandwidth” was a game-changer for us. And perhaps it will be to you in your leadership.

During a leadership coaching event in India a leader had been attempting to nail Bill down on a “this or that” kind of leadership question.

“Should I be a tough-minded leader or more of a relational leader?” he had asked.

Bill quickly responded with a much better leadership perspective.

“What you should really be focusing on,” Bill began, “Is ‘What is my elasticity as a leader?

I’m talking about your bandwidth as a leader. For every growing leader this is a huge concept to master.”

As Bill went on to explain, I was busily taking notes.

“The bandwidths of leadership refers to the tension leaders must constantly monitor in various leadership situations.

You need to know when to be passionate, and when to be dispassionate.

When to be clear, and when to be ambiguous.

When to launch, and when to delay. These are all questions of a leader’s bandwidth.”

And that, I noted to myself, was a masterful leadership insight.

All too often leaders try to let themselves off the leadership hook by reducing leadership to a set of formulas or simplistic extremes. “Leaders must be tough”, one leader will say. “Leaders must be quick to act” another will declare.

But for growing, leaders, Bill reminded us, effectiveness lies in the nuances in between. They recognize that some situations, some seasons, and some people, require leadership that is quick to act, decisive and blindingly clear.

At other times, in other seasons, and perhaps for other people, leadership requires patience, seasoning, even a bit of ambiguity.

Here are the key points I scrawled on my notepaper that day.

  • Leadership can never be reduced to a set of inflexible formulas
  • Leadership requires the ability to read a situation and respond to its unique circumstances
  • Leadership is much more fluid an art than it is an exact science

Keep these concepts firmly in mind, and your leadership bandwidth can experience tremendous elasticity, and effectiveness.

How broad is your leadership bandwidth?

Updated from February 19, 2015 post


the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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