Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge

Leadership continues to be a hot topic in business, government, academia, the non-profit sector, and the church. Most people realize that the leadership that got us into the situations we find ourselves in today won’t get us out of those situations, so we are constantly seeking new ways to conceptualize the role of leaders who can.

One of the most popular leadership models in recent years is The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership ® developed out of extensive research by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. They first presented their findings in The Leadership Challenge (2002). This spawned additional resources and over 200 doctoral dissertations and academic research projects.

The original book is very thorough and sometimes quite dense, so I was pleased to find that Kouzes and Posner had edited Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge. The theme of the book is how Christian leaders can apply the editors’ model “to the work of mobilizing others to get extraordinary things done.” This is a much more accessible book than the original volume. Although the editors provide three chapters on their model, the bulk of the book was written by authors who look at components of the model from a Christian perspective. Those contributors are John Maxwell, David McAllister-Wilson, Patrick Lencioni, Nancy Ortberg, and Ken Blanchard. Several of these authors bring both secular and ecclesial backgrounds to their presentations.

Kouzes and Posner’s basic model is: Model the Way; Inspire a Shared Vision; Challenge the Process; Enable Others to Act; and Encourage the Heart.

There is little new here, but it is presented in an interesting way.  Both the creators of the model and the contributors to this volume recognize that leadership is basically a relational task and, as such, is embodied in both the actions and the character of the leader. As Kouzes and Posner point out, “The legacy you leave is the life you live.” They understand that “the most significant contributions that leaders make are not today’s bottom line but to the long-term development of people and institutions that adapt, prosper, and grow.”

As in most collections, the various writers’ differing styles and approaches can create some difficulty for the reader, but the overall volume is concise, optimistic, and stimulating. This is a good introduction to Kouzes and Posner’s model and will encourage some creative thinking and self-appraisal for the Christian leader.


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