Exposed Leaders

showImageThe team that I serve on just returned from attending the Q Conference in Los Angeles. It was a great two and half days of over stimulation. Q was started by Gabe Lyons. His stated purpose is, “Q educates the church and cultural leaders on their role and opportunity to embody the gospel in public life.” The tag line from the Q Ideas web site is “Ideas for the common good.” This was my 1st experience with Q and, upon evaluation, I believe they delivered. Every presentation was either 3 minutes, 9 minutes, or 18 minutes in length. They were powerful and varied. We heard messages on the power of story, child trafficking, the North Korean underground railroad, sexual economics, freedom inside of limits, the power of infographics, the cure for homelessness, surfing, and much more. There were over 40 presentations in two and half days. There were Q & A sessions with the presenters, there were round table discussions, and there was ample opportunity to meet unique and passionate leaders from all over the country who are fully engaged in our culture. It was a rich time of learning and understanding.

As I have begun to reflect on my experience at Q, I have seen afresh the great value in leaders being exposed to contexts outside their own.

All of us as leaders need to be exposed to new and different ways of thinking. We need to meet and engage with people who will challenge our categories. It is easy to stay inside the walls of our own understanding and never realize that needs abound right outside our gates. I am convinced that our team will be learning from this experience for sometime to come. It will certainly change how we approach our task. I know it will alter some of my fast held viewpoints.IMG_5347

Here are four reasons for the absolute necessity of leaders and teams placing themselves in challenging environments that are not their own:

1. To help us evaluate our own paradigms. It is easy to have tunnel vision. Leaders rightly are focused on their cause and their perceived solutions. But when you are exposed to new insights and different vantage points there is a natural evaluation that takes place. It is a healthy one. It doesn’t mean that you will quit your leadership role and take up a new cause–necessarily. But it certainly might lead you to fresh understanding and new solutions. You might see things in a whole new light which could lead to much greater effectiveness.

2. To stimulate our learning towards other’s paradigms. I know very little about North Korea except what I see on TV. I was unaware of some of the brutality that is taking place daily. I knew nothing of a vast underground railroad that is helping people make it to freedom. I have never thought much about the clothing industry and how it affects a woman’s identity. I have not rightly valued the virtue of modesty and dignity and all of their good consequences in a sex crazed world. I have never considered deeply that freedom and creativity actually arise from limits. I need to see life and culture through the lens of others. I need to have my limited perspective challenged. I will be better for it. Being exposed to another paradigm creates a learning opportunity I regularly need.

3. To humbly enter in as one among many. Its easy to feel like a big deal within your own organizational culture. That is the “beneficial” side of comparison. But when you get around a bunch of leaders who are half your age and changing the world . . . well, its humbling. When you talk to leaders who are 20 years older than you and you see the fire in their eyes . . . well, its humbling. And its inspiring. And it instills hope. It is invigorating. You gain a much grander view of God and His work in the world. And you realize that you are one part of the body of Christ. A significant part . . . but only a part. I think that is a good vantage point for leading boldly, but humbly into the future.

4. To personally meet and dialogue with leaders that are as passionate as you are . . . about something else. You and I do not have a corner on vision, passion, and drive. There are many gifted leaders out there who definitely feel called into human need. They are using their craft to bring light into a dark world. They are calling others to join them as vital participants to make a difference . . . just as I long to do. I need their callings and values to rub off on me. And I think they need me too. That is one of the great values of engagement and dialogue.

There are many good environments from which to choose to gain this type of exposure.

An unexposed leader will all to quickly become myopic and proud.

Will you join me for Q Nashville?


4 replies
  1. Mandy Poplawski
    Mandy Poplawski says:

    Gary, thanks for your post! Leon and I watched the livestream of the opening sessions of Q. We also did that for QDC. As usual, we were very impressed and even learned much in the first few sessions!

    • Gary Runn
      Gary Runn says:

      Mandy-thanks for taking the time to comment. I really enjoyed the Q environment. I wish it was a little cheaper. I think you guys would enjoy and benefit from going. Scott and Donna from Chicago were there for a few presentations too. To sign up for Nashville now is the cheapest price they offer-I wonder if there is a way to recruit a few leaders and somehow comp some of your expenses into it-just a thought.

  2. Brian Virtue
    Brian Virtue says:


    Awesome. Awesome. I wish I had been at Q. Had several friends attend. I can’t tell you how much I wish that vision of “exposed leadership” would become more true in our world. Unexposed leaders with power also end up resisting or labeling younger leaders who are more exposed and are starting to view things from different perspectives and paradigms. I wonder if many leaders don’t get exposed more because of either just business or maybe even because they fear that they by becoming exposed they will lose their organizational focus or distinctives (maybe points to insecurity). We should take advantages of great opportunities to learn and be challenged – especially because today so many incredible things are being done by many incredible people. Thanks!.

    • Gary Runn
      Gary Runn says:

      Brian-thanks for the encouragement and the comments. You have added some good insight-I think labeling and insecurity can be a significant consequence and barrier to good leadership. Let’s keeping pushing those we have influence with to stay fresh in their learning and exposed to thought provoking environments.


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