Southeastern University's seventh annual National Leadership Forum kicked off Thursday morning, bringing together some of the world's most respected leaders for two days of messages focused on the theme of servant leadership.
Hundreds of business leaders, pastors, entrepreneurs, and aspiring leaders were treated to more than five hours of leadership wisdom and practical application in SEU's Bush Chapel.
Best-selling author and leadership expert John Maxwell headlined the first day and shared his Five Levels of Leadership: Position, Permission, Production, People Development, and Pinnacle. Using a mix of personal stories and wisdom gained from decades of equipping leaders through his EQUIP organization, Maxwell encouraged attendees to always work to move to the next level.
"When you learn to lead successfully, life gets better for you," Maxwell said.
He included characteristics of effective leaders at each level, such as relationship-focused Permission leaders who are effective because they listen, observe, and serve. Maxwell also shared general organizational principles, saying that vision and mission statements are overrated and that culture is what sets the tone for businesses, churches, etc.
Maxwell concluded the evening as the keynote speaker at the SEU Scholarship Gala at the Lakeland Yacht & Country Club. Funds from the dinner are used to provide scholarships to Southeastern University students.
The other Thursday sessions included Mark Sanborn, Nancy Ortberg, John Ortberg, and Pat Williams.
Sanborn, making his third appearance at The Forum, opened the event with a message motivating leaders to move from ordinary to extraordinary. Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. He has authored seven books, including the international best-seller The Fred Factor.
He challenged those in attendance to ask extraordinary questions, such as "How do we become distinctive?" rather than "How do we become excellent?" and "Are we pursuing our potential?" rather than "What are our goals?"
"If you want to maintain your passion to be an extraordinary leader, ask 'What gives my life meaning?'" he said.
Sanborn offered the following six points to help leaders move to extraordinary: aspire higher, clarify purpose, have passion, go left (look within yourself), deepen connections, and elevate the experience.
The Ortbergs, both former pastors of Willow Creek Church who now lead ministry, write, and offer leadership consulting out of San Francisco, spoke in separate sessions.
Nancy Ortberg shared her three keys for organizations to create healthy cultures. They include decreasing fear, telling the stories of organizational heroes, and developing a commitment to learning. She spent the majority of her session outlining how to decrease fear, emphasizing that leaders need to develop trust and take advantage of healthy conflict.
"Fear of conflict is a dysfunction, but conflict is necessary for our souls and our spiritual growth," she said.
John Ortberg used his session to highlight the influence that Jesus and his followers have had on civilization. His examples included the creation of the calendar, the development of free public education, and the display of compassion based in a belief in human rights.
"Too often we argue about Christianity rather than marvel at Jesus," he said.
Williams, co-founder and senior vice president of the NBA's Orlando Magic, outlined 12 traits of extreme winners whom he has observed in his more than 50 years in professional athletics. He recalled examples from successful athletes, coaches, and leaders such as John Wooden, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Walt Disney.
Among the 12 traits were preparation, focus, attitude, and a strong work ethic.
"A lot of people have dreams, and nothing happens until you take action," Williams said.
The National Leadership Forum concludes Friday with five more sessions. Scheduled to speak are AmyK Hutchens, Jon Gordon, Dave Martin, Phil Cooke, and Sarah Palin. For more information, visit www.seuleadershipforum.com.