Best Leadership Messages from Global Leadership Summit 2020


Since 2014, the year I was first introduced to the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), I’ve been a faithful attender because of the research and stories shared by the best world leaders. With 2020 shaping up to be one of the most “memorable” years in modern history, I was keen to hear from the faculty on leadership topics relevant to our current times.

Many messages touched on how leaders can deal with fear, deepen human connection, and create psychological safety while leading forward. I share a few of the best leadership messages from some of the most renowned experts on why leadership is so important, how to lead better, and what people want from their leaders.

You need to push through fear, because your greatest success is on the other side.

Speaker Messages

Craig Groeschel

For years, Craig’s been saying, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.” At its core, leadership is influence, never title or position. Everyone has influence, and leaders can learn from anyone as long as they have humility. Craig’s encouragement is for leaders to lead through the dip.

All organizations move through 5 life cycle stages:

  • Birth: painful, don’t know if you have the energy or right resources
  • Growth: difficult for different reasons, need right people, cash flow struggles, fun
  • Maturity/Prime/The Flow: this is really working, have right people and systems
  • Decline/Rut/Treadmill: low morale, high frustration
  • Death: the end

When organizations enter the decline stage, leaders typically revert to what they did in the prime/growth phases, doing it even harder with the false belief the organization will return to its former self.

You can make excuses, or you can make progress, but you can’t do both. Don’t fight the old way but find the new way.

Every major crisis creates unexpected problems as well as unpredicted opportunities. Be agile and look for them. Do you have courage to succeed by adapting, pivoting, and leading through the dip to create the next growth curve?

  • Change how you think about change. People don’t mind change; they hate the way we try to change them. Great leaders never caste blame.
  • Have the courage to unmake promises such as “we will never” or “we will always”. If not careful, your boldest declarations could become your greatest limitations.
  • Obsess over the Why. People change over either desperation or inspiration. When you convey the why, you disarm the critics, educate the bystanders, and empower the advocates. If they know the purpose, people can tolerate the pain of change.

Lead with confidence through uncertainty. Feel the fear and lead anyway.

The pathway to the greatest outcome is through your fear. What is no longer working and needs to be changed? What’s one promise you need to unmake? What’s one risk you need to take even if you feel afraid?

Danielle Strickland

  • Hope is a strategy that is grown in the soil of gratitude and flourishes when we live out what we believe. We look to our leaders to create hope.
  • Eighty percent of your thought process is either in the past or the future. Hope is present tense. Leaders should focus on doing in the present what they hope for in the future.

Beth Comstock

  • Organizational longevity is influenced by how well leaders manage change—forcing people to confront things they normally wouldn’t.
  • Sometimes as a leader you need to admit that you’re afraid. Tell people what you know and don’t know. You don’t have to know everything.
  • If you’re to lead well, you need to ask for feedback. A powerful question to ask your team: “Tell me one thing I don’t want to hear?”

John Maxwell

  • The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda. You’re already outside of your comfort zone, so now is the time to do those things you’re uncomfortable doing.
  • What we focus on is what expands. You don’t get rid of your fear. Feed your faith and hope, so that it expands over your fear, doubt, and feelings of uncertainty.

Everything you want and don’t have is outside of your comfort zone.

Marcus Buckingham

The answers to 10 statements will tell you how much resilience lives in your workplace. How would you describe your personal experiences?

  1. I have all the freedoms I need to decide how to get my work done
  2. No matter what else is going on around me, I can stay focused on getting my work done
  3. In the last week, I have felt excited to work every day
  4. I always believe that things are going to work out for the best
  5. My team leader tells me what I need to know before I need to know it
  6. I trust my team leader
  7. I am encouraged to take risks
  8. Senior leaders are one step ahead of events
  9. Senior leaders always do what they say they are going to do
  10. I completely trust my company’s senior leaders

Statements 1-4 focus on self, 5-7 with team leaders, and 8-10 with senior leaders.

  • Senior leaders can cultivate resilience though vivid foresight and follow through.
  • Team leaders can adopt anticipatory communication: check-in with people one-on-one at least once a week and build psychology safety.
  • Individual leaders can build resilience by understanding their agency: what parts of your world you can control and when. You should use your strengths in work, because that will fill you up.

Nona Jones

Injustice is never neutral. One side always benefits from the other even when that side didn’t design it. In leadership, safe is insufficient.

You cannot make lasting impact while still feeling safe. Impact and comfort are diametrically opposed.

Why do we retreat to the safe zone?

  • Fear: One end of the spectrum is the fear of losing your life [to something bigger] and on the other losing your livelihood. Fear is real. Our challenge as leaders is to explore what fear can teach us. Fear is a thermometer; fear is an invitation to prepare; fear cannot be an excuse for inactivity. When you prepare for the worst while working toward the best, fear changes from a paralyzer and becomes a mobilizer.
  • Inadequacy: It causes you to believe the lie that someone else is better equipped than you. Determine what you can change and change it. No one is called to change the entire world by himself.

It’s achievable when we take what’s possible and make it probable.

When things get difficult, we often retreat into isolation. You must build your pack to build your power. We were created to be in community. When things get challenging, rely on your pack. Your challenge: identify three people that you can invite into your pack as encouragers when things get difficult.

Juliet Funt

Exhaustion and denial? Soldier on. Ideas to help you refuel your tank.

  • Forgive and accept yourself more than you’re currently doing today.
  • Reconnect with your mission. Do the Ladder Up exercise! In a purposeful way, keep asking, “What is the best possible outcome of that?” for each answer until you reach a pinnacle outcome which might include (1) live longer, healthier, lives, (2) achieve close, connected, and loving families, and (3) achieve clear, clean, and close-by water.

When you ladder up to the best possible outcome, you’ll be infused with energy.

Vanessa Van Edwards

Studies show that people evaluate others upon first meeting them on warmth (trust) and competence (respect). Leaders rank off the charts in both these traits. Where are you on the continuum of warmth and competence? You can increase your warmth and trust by acting on the following behaviors.

  • Become purposeful in your cues. Our words are powerful primers to shape others’ behavior, thoughts, and actions. In the workplace, calendars are the biggest primers. Typical calendar invites for call, meeting, conference, agenda, or one-on-one are boring. Instead, use collaborative session, strategy session, mastery meeting, creative time, accountability hour, or goal session.
  • Think about how you want someone to feel before, during, and after interacting with you. When starting a conversation or answering the first question, avoid starting with “terrible traffic”, “bad weather”, “I’m so stressed”, “my schedule is crazy”, or “I’m so busy”.
  • Think positive and focus on “I’m so happy to see you”, “great weather”, “I’ve been looking forward to this”, “It’s great to be here”, and “It’s always a pleasure to speak with you”. Positive words change brain patterns and convey warmth such as Hi friend, Let’s connect, Cheers, I’m open, Together, Excited, Collaborate, Happy to be here, Best, and Both
  • Competent words include Productive, Let’s brainstorm, Effective, Get ready, We’ll power through it, Efficient, Lead knowledge, and Streamlined. Do an email audit to see how you prime. What changes will you make going forward?
  • Hands are trust indicators. Hands convey trust and intention, so get your hands up and make them visible and expressive. Hands also impact competence, not just warmth. Least popular TED talks had 272 gestures and most popular used 465 gestures in 18 minutes. Demo your talk with hand gestures. Speak with your hands and your words. The mind gives a lot of weight to hand gestures vs. words.
  • Influence: Avoid the question inflection at the end of your statement. Say, don’t ask with your voice inflection, because it diminishes your competence. Low tone: use the lowest natural end of your voice tone by speaking on the out-breath.

To learn more about how to signal others visit

Joseph Grenny

  • Progress is assured when leaders chose truth over power. Leaders become heroes to support those who challenge and disagree. Create feedback rituals; build space into the schedule for candor.
  • The health of a team is measured by the time elapsed between when a team sees a problem and when they talk about it.
  • Most pain is avoidable, and pain is fostered by a culture of silence. Silence is the playground of evil. Our day ends when we are silent about what matters.

Paula Faris

  • When leading yourself through life’s reset, look for peace to proceed, expect and anticipate fear, and give yourself permission to branch out.
  • Do you have a peace about it? Or are your values clashing with your choices? Are you finding significance in something that shifts (job, bank account)? If you have peace in your spirit, proceed.
  • Expect and anticipate fear: fear is normal. You will be scared during shifts, resets, and change. Know how to deal with your fear. What is the worst thing that could happen if you pressed into fear?
  • Ask yourself these questions: What are you scared of? What is the worst thing that could happen if you went for it? What is the best thing that could happen if you went for it? What are the times when you let fear paralyze you? When did you not allow your fear to paralyze you?
  • Value is not tied to relationship, job, bank account, etc. but in finding fulfillment in what you are good at and love. What are you good at? What do you love? What do trusted people notice you’re good at and love?

Fear is the great paralyzer to slay your dreams.

Chris McChesney

What if new priorities or change did not raise uncertainty? What if it made sense? People can handle change; it’s the uncertainty that people don’t like. Can you engage your team for an achievable and meaningful outcome? Can your team feel they can win? If so, change is not an issue. You’re a leader if you can create the 3 things team members look for:

  • Clear finish line
  • Influence on how to get to finish line (making progress)
  • Confirmation that the goal matters to the leader on daily basis (engage people to a cause that means something and is winnable)

Amy Edmondson

People’s orienting system is to achieve psychological safety (predictable, rational, and fair). We live in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, commonly referred to as VUCA.

  • Volatile: rapid changes, ups and downs, big swings
  • Uncertain: difficult to predict future events/values
  • Complex: multiple interconnect elements
  • Ambiguous: unclear meaning of signals/events

Psychological safety explains more about variability in team performance than any other factor.

What if you took it seriously as leader to help people adapt and navigate the VUCA world?

  • Anyone’s voice should be mission critical. Most people people feel that they can’t speak up.
  • Impression management at work is almost second nature. It causes us not to speak up or push for what we know is right. No one wants to look ignorant, incompetent, intrusive, or negative but would prefer to look smart and easy going, which means he or she doesn’t ask questions, admit weakness or mistakes, offer ideas, or critique the status quo.
  • Are you playing not to lose or are you playing to win? Organizations that play to win put the mission in charge and not impression management. They create psychologically safe cultures for people to take risks and speak up with ideas, questions, and concerns. Mistakes are welcomed and valued.
  • Studies show the higher your status in the company the more psychological safety you have but you can have pockets of poor psychological safety at any level. The hierarchical safety gap in your company is minimized when everyone has a voice at the table.
  • High performance standards and psychological safety can co-exist. As leaders we need to help the team move into the learning zone.
    • Comfort zone (low standards, high safety)
    • Apathy zone (Low standards, low safety)
    • Anxiety zone (high standards, low safety)
    • Learning zone (high standards, high safety)
  • What are the key signs that a workplace is psychologically safe? People on your team are willing to speak up when: (1) something goes wrong, (2) they disagree with what’s being said (especially the boss), (3) they have half of an idea, and (4) they need help
  • Leaders recognize that not all failure is bad. Failure comes in three types:
    • Preventable (mistakes): where we know how to do it right
    • Complex (accidents): a set of factors combine in novel ways to produce undesired outcomes in familiar contexts
    • Intelligent (discoveries): undesired results that nobody could have known without trying it
  • Leaders help the organization fail well: reducing preventable failures, anticipating and mitigating complex failures, and promoting intelligence
  • Create a psychological safe environment by framing the work, inviting/insisting engagement proactively, and responding productively
    • Insist on; give time to create disagreement (debate)
    • Model humility and candor
    • Ask good questions to broaden the discussion: (1) what do others think, (2) what are we missing, (3) what other options could we consider, (4) how would our competitor approach this, and (5) who has a different perspective. Good questions also deepen the discussion: (1) what leads you to think so, (2) what’s the concern that you have about that, (3) can you give us an example, and (4) can you explain that further?
    • When you get feedback you should be appreciative, positive, and forward looking. Respond productively by listening and showing empathy.

Good questions make silence awkward.

Michael Todd

What can the right or wrong pace do for your leadership? Overworked, anxiety, and depression can be the results of a too fast, unsustainable leadership pace. If we get the right pace, everything changes. Will you find your stride—the walk with long decisive steps in a specific direction which can take you further than faster?

  • Pace of grace: when you find the right stride, everything starts working. Are you working fast in one area and nothing in another? When everything gets the measure of health that it needs, you’ve found the pace of grace.
  • Create a vision, make it visual, verbalize it, and don’t violate it

Poor pace produces missed moments, meaning, and miracles.

Henry Cloud

Your mission and organization can easily become fragmented curing a crisis. Anchor yourself and ensure your organization is paying attention to these critical four:

  • Are we making sure that fragmentation is not leading to disconnection? Show up enough and in the right way?
  • Do everything possible to let others have a sense of power and control. What can they control in driving the mission forward?
  • Managing shame and pain. You need to make room and space for people can talk about where they are failing and hurting.
  • Allow people a sense of accomplishment by allowing them to use their strengths and feel good about what they do.

Momma Maggie Gibran

The stronger the winds, the stronger the tree.

Albert Tate

Are you counterfeit or the Real McCoy? Ask yourself this question about your leadership. Am you a counterfeit or faking? Or are you trying to be the best version of some other person?

  • Leadership is not something you need to grasp from the outside but should be what you need to grow from inside you.
  • In crisis, it’s not about finding leadership but tapping into what is already within you in the moment.
  • What are the leadership essentials for us to have authentically growing within us?
    • We should be flipping tables as leaders (Jesus and the money changers). Look for injustice and turn systems over. It’s hard to flip a table of injustice, if you’re sitting comfortably at the table. Are you sitting at tables you should be flipping? Who is not at your table? Why? Are you making it hard for those to sit at your table?
    • We should be foot washing leaders (Jesus washing disciples’ feet, even Judas). Who would be surprised by your compassion if you poured it on them? Wash the feet of friends and foe, allies, and enemies.
    • We need to be a limping leader (you loose but God wins) by walking in vulnerability. Failure isn’t falling but an invitation for God’s grace to show up in your life. Limps are just the mark where you lost, and God won.

Lead a legacy for tomorrow.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at or by visiting her website at