axiomBack in the days when neither seatbelts nor infant car seats were mandatory, my daughter, Shauna, would sit right by my side on the arm rest of the old Chevy Impala I drove.

One morning she and I loaded up to run a few errands, and as I was pulling out onto a major thoroughfare, I glanced over to make sure she was secure on her makeshift seat. In that split second between when I looked her way and when I looked back to see any oncoming traffic, a car appeared out of nowhere. Feeling I had no other options, I stomped on the accelerator. The other driver came within mere feet of plowing into us before swerving out of our lane. It was way too close for comfort, and I died a thousand deaths in the space of the next six shallow breaths. What if that car had hit us? What if Shauna had been hurt? Or killed?

My mind was racing as I tried to think of a way to apologize to this little girl who because of me almost didn’t make it to her fifth birthday, when she interrupted my self-reproach with three simple words: “Bold move, Dad.”

It wasn’t the first time Shauna had leveled me with her wit. At four, she could verbalize things better than people far older. I was so struck by the humor of her comment that as soon as we got home, I told Lynne the whole story. I told my close friends. One time I even told the congregation at Willow during a weekend service. And eventually, the phrase stuck.

These days, we use it to describe courageous, high-risk plans that God just might use in a major way. Recently I heard a Creeker (my term of endearment for a participating member of Willow Creek) telling one of my colleagues that he was trying to get all twenty of his senior executives to come with him to our annual Leadership Summit. My wide-eyed colleague said simply, “Bold move!”

Once you label something in a culture, you give it an identity. You legitimize it and, in so doing, increase the likelihood that you’ll see that behavior on an ever-increasing basis. Why? Because people become organizational heroes when they exhibit it!

As the years went by, my teammates and I began to notice that the primary reason we were making significant progress as a church was that we had enough people making “bold moves.” They were thinking fresh thoughts, pioneering cool new programs, and trusting God to accomplish significant kingdom-building activity in their midst.

What has been true for us is true for you too: you will never take big hills without making bold moves. The alternative is incrementalism, which is dangerous and often deadly to organizations. Incrementalism says, “Hey, let’s increase the effectiveness of our current efforts by 2 percent a year but then expect a huge increase in effectiveness to occur sometime in the future!” That seldom works.

Incrementalism and innovation make terrible bedfellows. Make a few bold moves, or you’ll breathe your last leadership breath far too soon.

Your move.

Hybels, B. (2008). Axiom: powerful leadership proverbs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.