Heather Zempel is a biological engineer who started working as a policy advisor to a US Senator on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. She now works with Mark Batterson doing ministry on Capitol Hill.
In a wide ranging interview, Heather describes the culture in DC during the 90s and early 2000s and compares it to how it is today. She talks about reaching young adults in the city, developing young leaders, and why she’s rethinking her groups and teaching strategy as DC becomes more and more post-Christian.
Welcome to Episode 281 of the podcast. Listen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.
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3 Insights from Heather
1. We get stronger when we reach across the aisle and work together with those that we disagree with
One of the biggest things Heather learned while working on Capitol Hill, is that everybody has got an angle when reporting on the American political system. There is a ton of value to be found in knowing what’s really going on and digging deeper into what you’re hearing and learning. Value can be found in hearing out people who disagree with us.
One thing Heather would love to remind all of us is that most of those politicians are good people that genuinely want to make a difference in the world they live in. Most people don’t realize that politicians have spouses and children, too. Regardless of what side of the aisle we are on, we have to be able to give the other side the benefit of the doubt and be able to love them as Christ has called us to.
2. Young leaders are in the room, so stop talking about them and begin working with them
Sometimes we’re afraid that if we let a young leader lead, they’re going to go rogue or go crazy, and then reflect badly on us as a result. Sometimes that’s true, but not always. Heather recommends that older leaders take that risk because somebody took that risk on you. We should never become too big or too important not to take risks on the next generation.
If older leaders begin to take more risks on the young leaders in their organization, that builds trust with those young leaders. Once you build that trust, the young leader will be willing to listen to whatever coaching or feedback you have to give them as their boss. If you never give them opportunities to fail, they will never be able to learn from their own failures.
3. If you want community, aim for service, purpose, and mission – Community will follow
Community is one of those elusive things that when you try to aim for it, you don’t often get it. But if you aim for something different, community comes as part of the package. The old method for building community was meeting with people face to face and then bringing them into a small group. This still works, but Heather and Carey are noticing a trend.
Both Heather and Carey are both beginning to notice that building community around something that is shoulder-to-shoulder (like serving) is actually leading to more powerful and sustaining transformation in the long run. Over the last 5 years, Carey has begun to notice that some of the best pockets of community in the church have formed around where people volunteer rather than what group they attend.
Quotes from Episode 281
Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?
Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.
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Next Episode: Joel Manby
Joel Manby became the role of CEO at Seaworld shortly after Blackfish was released – a documentary about the relationship between killer whales and their trainers at Seaworld. Joel talks about the crucible of his time there trying to address the concerns of the documentary as attendance and share price dropped, and how he figured out how to address the concerns and position Seaworld for the future. Joel also talks about his early days in leadership, including becoming the youngest CEO in GM history when he was appointed to lead Saab USA at age 35, and so much more. In a remarkably candid and honest interview, Joel talks about the personal cost of leadership and how to transform culture according to the principles of love.
Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 282.