Bill Hybels credits his father with helping develop his leadership gifts by giving him extraordinary responsibility at an early age. "When I was a sophomore in high school, he made me foreman of a group of migrant workers at one of the family-owned farms. I had to organize the work efforts of 120 people who spoke only Spanish. I had to figure out how to get them to work diligently and how to do the payroll when it was hard to figure out who was part of which family.

"Sometimes people would stand in line three times to get a check, and I'd wind up about 10 paychecks short. He'd say, 'Find a way to fix it and don't let it happen again.'"

Yet as Hybels and his wife, Lynne, recount in their book Rediscovering Church, his early style of leadership almost killed them and the church. It showed up in a workaholic pace and unrealistic expectations of staff. The consequences took years to undo.

"The only way to get wiser is to make it through your errors of stupidity," a more mellow Hybels says today. "People forgive you. You say you're sorry, and then you get a little smarter and wiser over time. My mistakes have proven Romans 8:28 to be true."

Jerry Kehe, a businessman and member of the Willow Creek Association board of directors, agrees: "Bill has learned a lot from his mistakes. In a recent board meeting he gave someone the business and, within minutes, stopped the meeting, went back to the incident and asked for forgiveness in front of everyone. Years ago he might have taken a shot and not worried about it. Today, he's a model of servant leadership. It shows real growth."

Marching orders

Hybels is still intense in many ways. He awakens at 5:15 a.m. without an alarm and arrives in his office 30 minutes later for personal devotions. ...

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