Friday, August 10, 2007

The Leadership Summit

I’ve been privileged to spend the past two days at the annual Willow Creek Leadership Summit. These are long days sitting at the feet of world class leaders in government, business, education and ministry. Six other leaders from my church are attending with me and we’ve had a couple of stirring lunchtime debriefing conversations. God is at work in all of us.

One of the presenters today was General Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest military position in the US) and former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.

I was fascinated by his so-called “Powellisms” which are one phrase or one sentence leadership statements that reflect his values and practices in leadership.

Speaking of the influence of his parents and extended family he identified what he considers their two best gifts to him. One was a sense of expectation. The second was a sense of shame. Both statements made me do a double-take.

Powell recounted that his parents had immigrated to the US along with siblings and cousins and had very little material possession or opportunity. They all worked hard to make a living and a life. Because of their efforts they “expected” that Powell and his cousins would make something of themselves. It was never a matter of discussion whether he would attend and finish high school or college. “They had worked too hard for me to not get an education.”

Powell’s family had also established themselves as a people of integrity and honest character. The family conveyed to Powell that he had a name to honor and that he had better never conduct himself in a way that would harm their name or bring shame.

Powell’s family commentary made an impression upon me because I didn’t have a heritage of expectation or honor. Both sides of my family tree are filled with adulterers, cheats, addicts and dysfunction.

However, God has so wondrously and graciously saved me that I have become something of a transitional person in my lineage. My legacy will be and is vastly different than my heritage. I’m not bragging but expressing thanks. So, I don’t take legacy lightly. My children have a pretty good sense about “expectations” and “shame” as Powell referred to it. Today I was freshly envisioned to make sure that values/experiences are passed on to future grandchildren and so on.

I don’t sit around and think about legacy. Do you? What are you or will you hand off to the next generation? What role is God having in shaping your legacy?

When asked what he wanted inscribed on his tombstone Colin Powell said, “He served well and left behind a good family.”

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