Keynote: Inspired Leadership
Fueled by her personal passion for creative leadership, Bishop Cynthia Harvey urged conference attendees to follow John Wesley’s example of bold innovation.
Signing invoices might seem a mundane task but when Bishop Cynthia Harvey joined the staff of UMCOR she learned a series of leadership lessons almost immediately. She found herself approving invoices to purchase motorcycles that were used to take healthcare to the people who could not make it to the hospital, thanks to a team that did not settle for the status quo. “I was brand new so I learned the leadership lesson of knowing when to follow, and I relied on my team, I empowered them and affirmed them to take risks and be change makers that imagined healthcare delivered in this innovative way,” she shared.
Referencing a touching video story from the We are More campaign and movie clips highlighting the innovative passions of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Cynthia encouraged conference leaders to “avoid defaulting to what we know – in favor of what could be.” She adds, “I’m afraid some of us are so focused on institutional preservation we have lost our ability to see where we are called and to lead from our soul and to see from the heart of God.”
She heralded the story of a pastor with lots of crazy ideas arriving at a church with eight members on the brink of extinction. “Rev. Robert Johnson was a social entrepreneur,” notes Cynthia, “leading from his soul and leading the congregation of 200 to take the church to the streets where they will reach far more than 200.”
What are the qualities of a bold leader in a changing world?
“A good shepherd smells a lot like his sheep,” she notes, encouraging others to pursue life-changing relationships and see problems as opportunities. “What problem in your faith community needs a dose of God’s abundance? If your church went away, who would grieve your departure? It’s not about more programs, but being more culturally relevant and devoting ourselves to what really matters.”
She adds, “The church is called to save souls, not save the church. New times call for new actions.” Acknowledging that bold leadership is often messy, she challenged lay and clergy leaders to create new models for change. “Lead in a way where we can be unleashed by the Holy Spirit, willing to forego distractions and remember who we are and whose we are.”
Comparing Wesley to a social entrepreneur, Cynthia noted that boldness is merely confidence in the face of the unknown. “In these times, it is good to be called a nonconformist, a force to be reckoned with as we push the church forward to bring about God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven,” she shared.
Bishop Janice Huie wrapped up the session, saying, “Thank you for encouraging us to be risk-takers on behalf of the gospel, to see our problems as possibilities and imaging God’s new creation and move toward it with all boldness.”