Unleashing The Power of Rubber Bands | Notes

Nancy Ortberg. Unleashing The Power of Rubber Bands; Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership. Tyndale House, 2008. (243 pages)

Tyndale’s First Chapters.


Rubber Bands

At its heart, leadership is about promises, and of all its promises, development is one of the most significant. 91)

Inherent in the leadership relationship is the expectation that over time, the direction you give will result in progress toward maturity, growth in skills and character, and even an increase in your own leadership competencies. (2)

The Core of Leadership

I think the core of leadership is hope. (7)

I knew that someone was developing me rather than auditioning me. (15)

The Problem with T-shirts

Nothing inspires cynicism in an organization faster than a T-shirt. (18)

Stone Ships

Very few people are motivated when they are handed a vision. Most want to be part of determining and shaping that vision. And when you invite people to the table with you to do that, you deeply honor their dignity and the image of God embedded within them. (30)

Pushing people is a lot more work than running along with them. (31)

I would rather lead people I have to pull back and steer a bit than those who need a constant fire lit under them. (32)

The space between the vision and reality creates a gap, a painful gap. And leadership is about bridging that gap. (34)

…vision [could become] a simple addiction to the emotional high of an imagined future. (36)


Much damage has been done to new leaders when older, more seasoned ones insist on clones. (49)

Rock, Paper, Scissors

There is power in paying attention. (70)

Rubber Bands II

And as leaders, we constantly need to determine whether something is a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed. (71)

Solving problems is much easier and more static. But managing tensions requires that you hold things open when what you would much prefer is closure; it is living in the foggy gray areas when what you want is clear black and white. (74)

Defining Moments

It may be more accurate to say that the power is in the tandem of the two: the defining moment and the plan that follows. Defining moments are only as significant as the lifestyles they produce. If defining moments don’t change things, they didn’t define anything. (82)

When the day comes that this Axis community–myself included–is giving at unbelievable levels, serving the poor with the same kind of energy I saw last night, and living deeply in authentic, Christ-centered, transformational relationship with one another, then I will believe that what we experienced last night was true worship. (83-84)

But without all those things, our concert was nothing more than intentional frenzy that may have felt good in the moment but had no real, deep connection to the inner core of God. (84)

There is often an enormous disconnect between the vision of an organization and the events that make up the daily calendar pages of the organization’s leaders. (93)

Bad Person…Bad Fit…Big Difference

There is a big difference between a bad fit and a bad person. Leadership is about having the courage to make that distinction. (99)

Out in front of the systems must be the willingness to intercept entropy at its earliest signs, the courage to have difficult conversations, and the ability to set deadlines for resolution. (100)

Max DePree often talks about leadership in terms of obligation–what we owe. … Leaders are obligated. It is inherent in leadership. We are obligated to many things, not the least of which are clarity, expectations, feedback, and follow-up. (104-105)

Teamwork Is a Strategy, Not a Slogan

Leadership is the promise of development. (118)

The Hardest Person to Lead

Leaders ought to be the most self-aware people in the room. (124)

Good leadership is about developing a rhythm of life, not an equation. (127)

T-shirts, Redux

…people are most open to new information and to change when they are either on a quest or in a crisis. (142)

How do I create a culture that attracts people on a quest? (143)

Giving people a choice honors their dignity as human beings. (144)

Perhaps it is not a lack of curiosity that makes us fearful, but fear that prevents us from being curious. (150)

What You May Not Know about mongooses

Fear deteriorates our high-level thinking capacities. (157)

Curiosity diminishes apprehension and trepidation. (159)

What’s Barcelona Got to Do with it?

Sometimes  major overhaul is needed. (170)


…when the change on the outside of your organization is greater than the change on the inside of it, you are in trouble. (177)

Defining present reality requires painful diagnostics that show us where to direct our energy and attention. (179)

When to Worry

It’s funny how looking good on the outside often betrays some serious stuff going on inside. Like the runner who drops dead of a heart attack. It’s a surprise, but he’s still dead.

[via: I consider this “the inverse paradox of appearances.” The better the facade and appearance on the outside, the more potential for dysfunction on the inside.]

Conflict is basically energy, and, harkening back to Physics 101, you know that energy has to go somewhere. The good news is that as the leader, you can decide where that energy goes. (190)

Even anonymous conflict is worth considering as a possible catalyst for growth and change. (199)


We need to keep our eyes open for leadership qualities: energy, dissatisfaction, new ideas, mistakes, and perhaps even a bit of cynicism. (208)

Leadership development does not necessarily start with strong leadership qualities like discipleship, maturity, and wisdom. Those are the end products. We need to be looking for the drive without the experience, the vision before the patience, the energy minus the discipline. (209)

Great leaders like and enjoy people. (216)

A genuine concern for and knowledge of those you work with is fundamental to great leadership. (217)

Relationships reflexively create collaboration rather than hierarchy, trust rather than suspicion, and joy rather than drudgery (218)

Rubber Bands III

Stretching people includes involving them in the process. (219)

Understatement of the Year

Perhaps the greatest enemy of leadership is discouragement. (236)

Leadership is hard, and we all need to stop being surprised by that. (237)

It doesn’t have to be famous to be great. (238)

[via: Then why do we only platform the famous and the large and the “successful?”]

It is so easy to mistake well known for better, and renown for expert. It isn’t so. And since most of us lead out of the spotlight, we need to remind ourselves that leadership right where we are is desperately important. Being in the top 1 percent is much too narrow a place to call success. Don’t wait to get famous to get good. (238)

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