Bill Hybels on Bridge-Building Leadership

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I am in my second week of my leadership tour of India, where a common theme has been emerging.

These church leaders have recognized the opportunity they have to impact all of India, across denominational, cultural and economic lines.

They are committed to being leaders who build bridges.

And it has brought to mind an earlier trip I took to India with Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. During a meeting in Delhi, Bill asked a leadership question that immediately grabbed everyone’s attention, and which should resonate with leaders everywhere.

”Are you a bridge-builder, or a wall-erector?”

Bill raised this vital question in response to a leadership issue that was apparent among some churches in this part of India, and which applies in leadership circles globally.

As a leader, Bill was reminding us, our energies and focus will either result in the bringing together of people, organizations, ideas and communities, or it will drive things further apart.

Effective leaders, Bill taught with great urgency, must devote themselves to being bridge builders.
He used an example of Bridge-Building leadership by talking about a group of churches in Buenos Aires, Argentina who collaborate at a jaw-dropping level. For example, when one of these churches begins a building program, each of the other churches in the community will provide financial support out of their own resources!

As Bill continued to teach about this I began funneling this principle through my own leadership lens. On my notepad I created two columns; one called “Bridge Building” and the other “Wall Erecting”. I then began to list all of the ways my leadership might contribute to each of these outcomes.

Wall Erecting:
I become a wall erecting leader when I:
• Say anything negative, even in private conversation, about another leader or organization
• Do anything less than offer whole-hearted, enthusiastic support and cooperation to other leaders and their organizations
• Fail to pro-actively build intentional relationships with these leaders

I become a bridge-building leader when I:
• Season every conversation regarding other leaders and organizations with words of affirmation,
• Pro-actively reach out to offer support and resources
• Make it my personal leadership mission to seek the success of those who can’t offer anything to me in return.

My huge take-away was that, whether we realize it or not, every day as leaders we are either erecting walls or building bridges.

I came away with renewed resolve to leverage my own leadership to be an intentional bridge builder.

How do you build leadership bridges?

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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