About a year ago, I posed a central life and leadership question:

“Do you make people better?”

To me, this is an essential question we need to answer by the way we live and lead. The answer must be “yes” to live and lead with full purpose.

As I participated in my third Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, an Olympic bolt raced through my mind. There is a corollary question, and it is:

“Do you make yourself better?”

The two questions are linked tightly together. It might even be that this question has to be answered first before the other can be. In other words, if we are not improving ourselves, how can we make others better?

Self Leadership Model

It may be a cycle of sorts, but it starts with making yourself better.

I always enjoy attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. This one seemed un-rhythmic to me. It may have been more me than the summit. If all I gained, though, was this key question, then it was well worth it.

I did gain more, however. I still felt refreshed at the end, along with the moments of inspiration such as:

  • From Bill Hybels: Sow more seeds. You are the most difficult person to lead. A leader’s most valuable asset is their energy and their ability to energize others.
  • From Condoleezza Rice: Every life is worthy and can be great. We have an obligation to do our best. The most important characteristic in a leader is irrepressible optimism.
  • From Jim Collins: Your organization is not truly great if it cannot be great without you.
  • From Craig Groeschel: When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders. Honor is given; respect is earned.
  • From Patrick Lencioni: Organizational health is the single most competitive advantage.
  • From William Ury: When angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret. The greatest power we have is the power not to react to angry people.
  • From Geoffrey Canada: Hope is infectious but so is despair. We are losing millions of our young people to despair. We are but a moment in what I consider a path toward victory. Sometimes struggling for a cause may not be rewarded in your lifetime…stay the course!

There was more to the summit than these selected quotes, yet leaning into these and acting on them would fill a lifetime of purpose in action.

And, that is the point.

We need to lean in and improve ourselves. It is the greatest challenge we need to address. We need to:

  • Read to learn, adapt, adopt, and augment.
  • Attend conferences to absorb, adjust, and act anew.
  • Engage in conversations to be held accountable and grow in understanding.
  • Reflect on our actions, our work, our relationships, and our leadership. From self-reflection, ensure we are on the right paths, making the right choices and doing things in the right way. If not, change.

The key lesson is this: Own yourself.

Although others need to keep us accountable, lend a hand, listen to our thoughts, and guide our actions, we own our development, meaning we need to make “getting better” a core principle in our lives.

How do you make yourself better?