Published September 23, 2015

My GLS Story – Changed by Great Leaders


North America

H1Holly Pennington writes about vulnerability, faith and freedom at She lives in the Seattle area and would love to connect with you on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Ever since my college years, my dad has planned his summers around the GLS. Every August, he and a group of church leaders from his church in Ohio went to Chicago to be part of the event that always wowed him. He came back with a different energy—full of excitement, stories and inspiration from his time there.

But he didn’t just tell me about it. He bought the CDs and gave them to me. I loved listening to the speakers.  But I was in college, I didn’t see myself as a leader, and I thought of the GLS CDs as entertainment to help me pass the time on long drives. They were inspiring stories that I expected to fade away once I arrived at my destination of real life again.

What I didn’t know then was that the stories from those CDs were becoming part of me; they were changing me. Hearing one story after another of an unlikely or unqualified person who was brave enough to say yes to the still, small voice within them was fading the line between me and them. World-changers like Wendy Kopp taught me you don’t have to be a charismatic extravert to be a leader. Many talks on leadership over the years were making me question my tendency to think that leaders are born, not developed. And Wes Stafford’s story about a pastor in a third world country who said he feels sorry for Americans because “they don’t have to depend on God to get through a day” still haunts me daily.

The stories of the GLS were forming what would become my core beliefs about leadership, calling and risk. I began to see myself as a leader and accepted a managerial position at work. I felt underqualified, but, because of the GLS, I knew that most leaders do. And I knew I had resources that would help me develop as a leader. It wasn’t long before I found myself growing others into leaders too. Instead of questioning the still, small voice in me, I started listening to it. Early last year, it called me to write.

My prior experience with writing was keeping a journal. I knew I wasn’t qualified. But, because so many GLS stories of listening were part of me, I started a blog and have been writing ever since. I also started risking more.  With words of Wess Stafford never growing distant in my mind, I knew I wanted a life that required me to “depend on God to get through a day.”  In 2014, I quit my job to start a business and write more, knowing that I would need to depend on God’s provision like never before.

This year, I finally attended my first GLS at a host site in Kent, WA. I am still thinking about Burl Cain’s transformation of the Louisiana State Penitentiary and how he did not “ask for the job or want it.”  And about Sam Adeyemi’s observation that “one of the most amazing things about Jesus’ ministry was that he gave power away.” I am thankful for Brené Brown because after she spoke, I finally had a conversation with my husband I had needed to have for a long time. The GLS is still changing me.

Holly Pennington FamilyAs I attended my first GLS at age 40, my dad hosted his first GLS at his church in Ohio at age 68. Nearly 600 people attended, and at the recent debriefing in Chicago, he and his team were awarded the “Rookie of the Year” award for their successful first-time hosting.

My dad started sharing his GLS passion by giving his daughter CDs, and now he’s sharing it with hundreds of people by being a host site. Because of his love for the GLS, I am pretty sure that I am just one of hundreds who are still being changed by the stories of great leaders.

About the Author
Global Leadership Network

Global Leadership Network

GLN Staff Writer

The Global Leadership Network is a community committed to learning from each other and using our influence to accomplish God’s purposes on earth. No matter where your influence is, when you commit to grow your leadership, everyone around you wins—businesses work for good, communities are transformed and churches thrive! Both global and diverse, our network includes partners in 1,400+ cities and 135+ countries. We are committed to deliver fresh, actionable and inspiring leadership content both at The Global Leadership Summit, and year-round through our digital platforms.

Years at GLS All