#GLS19 | Live Notes, Day 1

Below is a live blog of my notes from the sessions of the Global Leadership Summit, along with any personal reflections in blue. I have attempted to quote verbatim, and/or record faithfully the points and meaningful lessons as originally intended by the speaker. I apologize for any mistakes, typos, or errors in my transcriptions.


Welcome & Introduction

Session 1: Craig Groeschel

Here is one thing I know about you: You want to get better.

“Cost/Benefit” analysis. Do the potential benefits justify the cost? The assumption many leaders make is that “better always costs more.” We assume that investing more brings a better return. Over time, however, more investing

We’re looking for “GETMO,” Good Enough To Move On. It is the greatest level of return based on time, money, and resources invested.

Perfection is often the enemy of progress.

If we spend more on something, we aren’t really making it better. We are making a trade.

What is “better?” “Better” is a higher return for an equal or lower investment.

How do we bend the curve?

1. Think Inside The Box. The problem with “outside the box” is that there are unlimited options. Constraints drive creativity. Constraints eliminate options. Let the constraints motivate you to innovate. So, where do you have tension? Where do you have a challenge?

If you had everything you wanted you might miss what you really needed.

2. Burn The Ships. Eliminate the options to turn back.

[The opening welcome of this Summit followed a very familiar script, one that is losing both its luster and its relevance. The videos and stage presentations are dramatic, polished, and frankly overly produced. The messaging is filled with an accounting of speaker accolades and the tone at times feels like cheerleading with a lot of repeated phrases and themes. I confess that 5-15 years ago, this formula was innovative. Excellence in this kind of programming was fresh and inspired a whole generation of people to consider carefully how our arts and technologies could advance the greater good. However, culture and times shift rapidly, and one lesson that the GLS (Global Leadership Summit) has at least touched on once or twice over the years is to listen and pay attention carefully to that shift. The WCA’s (Willow Creek Association) current reality of failing to engage fully and honestly with the controversies and challenges surrounding Bill Hybels has soured its reputation and credibility (another Summit theme throughout the years). In addition, Groeschel made several references to sex and sexuality during his talk which are uncomfortable in some contexts, but even more so inappropriate in this context. Taken as a whole, the experience so far evinces a tone-deafness of the WCA, and is exposing the entire programme as a mythology.

I do agree with one major value of the GLS (Global Leadership Summit), which is that we can learn from anyone, from anywhere. That is still true here. And I testify that my personal life and leadership have been made better through the Summit over the last ~20 years or so of attending (an introduction to Patrick Lencioni alone, leading me to get my MBA in Leadership and Organizational Health in his material is a tangible proof). Poetically, and ironically, I’m learning more directly how dismissiveness–avoiding reality and the people living those realities–can erode your leadership capacity. The culture and time in which we are currently living values profound authentic transparency far and above the fasçade of shiny events. Credibility, honesty, and truth-telling are the most foundational characteristics of a leader. Will the WCA heed that value? We have yet to see.

Can I say all this while respecting and honoring their work? Yes. And I do. I’m looking forward to the rest of the speakers to further my journey.] 

Session 1: Bozoma Saint John & Paula Faris

How important is a healthy and thriving culture? The easy answer is “yes,” but where we get lost is where the culture begins. We think it happens from the Employee Handbook or HR. It’s usually in your own cubicle.

What happens when the culture is toxic? Competition is not bad. It’s only bad when people are put against each other.

What does a thriving culture look/feel like? It feels like someone is moving together in the same direction.

[via: This is also a definition of love that I’ve been using, that love is not looking into each other’s eyes, but in staring out together in the same direction.]

What is an unhealthy culture? Let me be clear, that nothing is back and white. There is no culture that is perfect.

How were you tasked to fix the culture of Uber? I was excited to get there. I knew if I went in there, there would be a big spotlight. Being the Chief Brand Officer, there were some things that needed attention. Corporate Culture. While a Brand Manager’s job is often external, much of the work is actually internal; Are people being heard? Who’s actually making the decisions? Even the small things in meetings, group discussions, and someone is dominating the conversation, making sure people jump in.

If I was going to be great, I couldn’t diminish myself any longer.

Why did you become an Uber driver for a day? I don’t know how any leader can sit in the gilded office and not participate in every level of the company? It’s such a disservice. As things come up the chain, they become softer; sharper problems “soften” up the chain of command.

What’s the best way to find out if the culture is healthy or toxic? When leaders ask about how people are feeling, you’ll get the wrong information. Creating the right environment so people can be unafraid to speak. And pay attention to the simple and small things.

How does a leader go about changing a toxic culture? A leader can’t do it alone. It absolutely is a group effort; that it is everyone’s collective responsibility. Diversity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. That’s what black people feel like in majority white environments. It’s our responsibility, when you’re at the next thing, ask someone to dance. Bring them into the conversation. It’s not enough that they’re just invited. And, we can’t look to the next person to say that they’re responsible to bring diversity.

What’s the importance of true leaders showing up as their true selves? Showing up as our most brilliant selves–not just our whole selves–we have to show up as ourselves. The beautiful gift my mother gave me is that there is no shame at all in being who you are, that I didn’t have to make excuses to others in the room. It’s now your responsibility to see and accept me.

How do we empower others to show up as their true selves? By being our true selves. It’s as simple as that.

[This was an amazingly refreshing session in light of what I wrote and reflected above. Saint John’s presence, in addition to her teachings on diversity, inclusion, and authenticity, was a welcome counterbalance to the dissonance I referenced in my opening comments.]

Session 2: Ben Sherwood

How to lead in a time of crisis and rapid change and disruption.

Be a farmer with a pitchfork.

Study of asymmetrical conflict. In a study of lopsided conflicts (10x power differential), 71.5% of the time, the stronger power wins in a conventional conflict. In unconventional conflict, when one side uses unconventional tactics, the weaker side wins 63.3% of the time.

The best ideas, and the most ideas win.

Believe in magic.

Practice Realistic Optimism

The one leadership secret, the one thing that unlocked the performances of all the people, came from E.M. Forrester’s novel, Howard’s End, “Only connect…”

[The full quote is here: “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.” I also find this in the word “religion” which means, in Latin, “to bind again.”]

Session 2: Liz Bohannon

Seeko Designs

From “Beginner’s Luck” to “Beginner’s Pluck,” defined as “spirited and determined courage.” Maybe success didn’t come in spite of professional inadequacies, but because of it.

Consider the four stages of learning:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Conscious Incompetence – Ouch. You know what you don’t know.
  3. Conscious Competence – I can do it, but it takes effort.
  4. Unconscious Competence – I’m so good I can do this in my sleep!

This image of the stages of learning is actually really insidious. If you believe in this, it will inhibit your leadership. Because when we believe in this image, we begin to act out of fear of losing our place at the top.

The stages of learning are actually a cycle. The goal is to be someone who is constantly moving through the cycle of learning. The “pluckiest” leaders celebrate when they find themselves back at “unconscious incompetence.” Instead of celebrating their achievements, they dove back in to “The Magical Land of Beginners.”

You don’t “find” your passion, you build it.

You are … average. I’m sorry, but statistically speaking, this is how averages work. Plucky’s know you don’t have to be “above average.” If we can own our average, then we can go on to build extraordinary lives.

Dream … small.

Nobody needs, or wants you to be their hero. We were created to live in community, and community is about a sacred dance. The role of leaders is not to be the hero of anyone else’s story, but to do the hard work so we can equip others to be the hero of theirs.

[I am so sorry to say that the ending of this talk–a wired contraption lifting the speaker off the stage while yelling “plucks fly together”–was an unwelcome theatrical gimmick on what is an otherwise fantastic talk. I’ll get the book, and leave the wires at home.]

Session 3: Jason Dorsey

The number one trend that shapes generations is parenting. Parenting influences everything we do. Entitlement is primarily a learned behavior. Starts with parenting, is reinforced through schools.

Every generation has a natural relationship with technology that is invisible until they interact with another generation.

cf. Center for Generational Kinetics; separating truth from myth on generations.

Technology is new only if you remember it.

Geography. The most consistent generation is Generation Z because of cheap mobile technology.

Generations are not boxes. “Predictability by behavior.”

Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce.

Millennials are experiencing something we call “delayed adulthood.”

Our biggest discovery is that the Millennial generation is splitting in two. One part is doing everything they were supposed to do. Nobody wants to talk about this segment, the segment that shows up and does what they’re supposed. Then the other segment is struggling. Around age 30, the generation splits. The group most offended by Millennials not working at work are other Millennials.

Millennials are NOT tech savvy, but rather tech DEPENDENT.

GenX. GenX is at an interesting life stage, taking care of parents and kids. Do they stay at their current employer, or go somewhere else. GenX is naturally skeptical. GenX is the glue of the organization because they don’t like Millennials or Baby Boomers. No matter how much I talk about GenX, they still feel as if they weren’t talked about enough.

Boomers. They know geography! They can read a map that doesn’t talk. They believe in policies, procedures, protocols.

GenZ. Their parents are primarily GenX or older Millennials that raised their kids differently. They saw their parents struggle through economic challenges, and they’re very careful about money. We predict many in this generation will leapfrog over the Millennials.


  1. Provide specific examples of the performance that you expect. Show us what it looks like. Because the language of leadership varies in interpretation varies by generation, gender, and geography.
  2. Show the end first. Don’t show linearity. Millennials and GenZ do not think linearly; they are outcome driven.
  3. Provide quick-hit feedback.

I believe that every single generation on earth (5 here right now) brings something important, and every generation can lead.

[Really well done, and very helpful.]

Session 3: Danielle Strickland

How can we become leaders of change, and thrive in the midst of it?

If we want to be leaders of influence, we need to find the right things to change; transformational, deep-rooted change.

How many board meetings are going to be dominated by our values?

It’s not enough to know what to change, you have to embrace the process to change it.

Disruption is not a threat. Disruption is an invitation to keep on moving to new normals.

There is no changing the future without disturbing the present.

[So far, this is by the most significant session, because there are deeply held, deeply rooted convictions upon which all other leadership decisions are made. I concur, that we need a revolution of our values, and if we could change that, well, that would change everything.]

Session 4: DeVon Franklin


In leadership, we’re too often trying to steal someone else’s recipe. You have your own recipe for leadership. We have to own the recipe that is already within us.

Difference is a way in which people or things are not the same. Destiny is your highest purpose and calling. Can I be comfortable knowing I am not living to the fullness of my potential? No discipline, no destiny.

Admit that your difference. Do not confuse someone else’s distinctiveness with your own. Hang with those who encourage your difference. Be salt and light. Destiny is a process. Commit to it.

Session 4: Patrick Lencioni

I think a lot fewer people in the world should become a leader. (“Everyone has influence…and they probably shouldn’t.”)

The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities.” If your “why’s” are off, your “how’s” won’t even matter; many of your “how’s” won’t even make sense.

There are only two reasons to become a leader. One is good, and the other is not. There is “responsibility-based” leadership, and there is “reward-centered” leadership.

You have to understand your leadership motive if you’re going to be a leader. Most of us understand this intuitively, but we don’t really think “why.” What specifically is bad about being a “reward-centered” leader?

The five situations that “reward-centered” leaders avoid, and as a result, people suffer.

1. They don’t like to have uncomfortable difficult conversations. If the leader isn’t going to do this, then why would anybody else do it?

2. Managing your direct reports. Most of the people that complain about micromanaging are people that don’t want to be micromanaged themselves or are people who don’t want to do their job. If people aren’t managed, they lose motivation, there’s politics, confusion; and when you abdicate management as a leader, real people suffer.

3. Run great meetings. How would you know if a surgeon is good at their job? Watch their surgery. How would you know if a leader is good at their job? Watch their meetings. If you don’t like meetings, you may need to consider a different kind of job. And the cost of bad meetings is bad decisions.

4. Team building.

5. Repeating themselves.

We have to ask ourselves, are we leading for the right reason. Avoiding boredom, tedium, or things that don’t bring us glory or notoriety, are not good reasons.

If you can relate to any of these things, first, admit it to yourself and to the people around you. Second, dive in and start being a “responsibility-centered” leader. If you don’t want to do that, then be a hero, and step back from the job. That would be a sacrificial act for others.

[There’s a reason why Lencioni is a favorite returnee. This talk is another reminder, and a classic example of how simplicity is profundity.]

About VIA


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