Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


I make a confession: I don’t like books on leadership. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never found the word “leadership” remotely interesting or evocative of what I do or what I think pastors do. So, when I hear that a church has a leadership conference, I roll my eyes. Perhaps it sounds too corporate or managed or technique-ish … yes, that’s it. Too much of what I hear sounds like techniques. As for my own, admittedly unformed, ideas, I see “leadership” as a “charism” or gift. And then something happened …

First, Ruth Tucker wrote a book on leadership, sent me the ms and asked
me to “blurb” it. I said something like this, “This is the first book
on leadership I’ve read and I like it because it deconstructs
leadership chat.”  (Ruth’s book is not out yet.)


Second, Nancy Beach wrote a book on leadership (Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading As a Woman in the Church
)  — Kris read it and
said, “You need to read this and blog about it.” I did but asked Alice
Shirey to blog about it. Which she did and did well.

Third, Nancy Ortberg writes a book on leadership and gives it a great
title: Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands: Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership
. Maybe it was because I’ve
always found some thrill in stretching a rubber band and shooting the
thing across the room — the sort of thing that makes for a good stunt
during mind-numbing faculty meetings.


Now I have to admit this: Nancy Ortberg’s book … I couldn’t put it
down. Read it from cover to cover. Great stories; wit on top of wit.
More importantly: wisdom. Down-home, experienced-shaped, honest to
goodness wisdom. Which is to say, this isn’t about techniques. It’s
about hard work, about relationships, about learning from doing, about
hope in action, and about team work.

Yes, three books about leadership by women. I’ll leave it to others,
those who know leadership books better, to tell us if women have
a unique angle on the questions. What I will say is that these are
three books by three leaders, three women leaders, and I like what they say.

Comments read comments(10)
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Mykl Krause

posted November 4, 2008 at 12:36 am

Just great!
I’m helping a colleague write a book on operational leadership – which is actually more about techniques than principles. You probably won’t like it. I’m hoping I like it!
And (insert expletive)! You keep adding books to my reading list! – or at least to my wish list.

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posted November 4, 2008 at 6:46 am

I think it is great that these three authors cut through much of the “corporate speak” that usually accompanies leadership discussions.
I do not have a problem with leadership topics or training (Catalyst is a helpful conference and organization). However, I do have a problem when leadership training seems to be the primary focus in certain ministry circles. It seems to go to the extent that being a good leader is apparently the ultimate goal, rather than being a disciple of Christ. In those instances, the idea of “leadership” almost becomes an idol.

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Andie Piehl

posted November 4, 2008 at 8:22 am

Some new for my reading list. Thanks, Scot.

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Dave Moore

posted November 4, 2008 at 9:41 am

I read a fair bit of books in this genre for my work as an executive coach. It has caused me to come up with “Moore’s Law of Leadership.” That law states “as the number of leadership books published increases the number of available leaders decreases.” Tongue in cheek, but Churchill didn’t become a leader by reading leadership books. He read history and pondered the world scene while at his easel.
One caveat lector with most leadership books: they tell you what and how to do things, but rarely why. For example, Good to Great is a very readable and well-researched book that assumes going from “good to great” is always the right course of action. It never makes the case why.
A decent book I recently read is True North by Harvard prof. Bill George and Peter Sims. It is written by and for the business community, but principles broadly apply elsewhere.

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posted November 4, 2008 at 9:56 am

FYI: The book mentioned by Nancy Beach might be “Gifted to Lead” and not “Courage to Lead” as I found the former and not the later on Amazon.

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Owen Youngman

posted November 4, 2008 at 9:59 am

Most of the leadership books that focus on business are predictable, didactic, obvious, and/or pointless. The most worthwhile one out there, by my lights, is Garry Wills’ “Certain Trumpets,” which analyzes the many component qualities of leadership and provides types and antitypes from history.

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Erik Leafblad

posted November 4, 2008 at 10:50 am

Tim Keel’s book, “Intuitive Leadership” is a recommended title on the topic. He doesn’t lay out a technique-ish approach to leadership, but makes a book-length case for Dave Moore’s brief, but fantastic line: ‘Churchill didn’t become a leader by reading leadership books. He read history and pondered the world scene while at his easel.” Keel argues essentially that leadership is something that arises as we interact with the world around us, our own community and the narrative that shapes it, and therefore leadership is always a dynamic of reading yourself, community, and world. This defies easy formulas and techniques but calls for truly gifted (charismatic?) leaders.

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Skye Jethani

posted November 4, 2008 at 4:43 pm

So Scot, how do you feel about “Leadership” journal? I know, the name comes from a bygone era when more pastors were fawning over corporate management methodology, but most younger pastors today (myself included) are not a fan of the name even if they value the content.
managing editor of “Leadership” journal.

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posted November 4, 2008 at 6:11 pm

I am not sure that the “leadership” era is so bygone. I believe we are still engrossed by it and believe the corporate structure is still the silver bullet.

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Rick Stevens

posted November 4, 2008 at 9:09 pm

As a pastor and student of organizational leadership, I share at least some of your perspective regarding church leadership books. I am not familiar with the books you cited, but most of the church leadership books I see are inadequate, shallow or just plain wrong.
One of the chief problems in church leadership literature seems to be the assumption that leading means imposing the leader’s will on the followers. At best such an approach is paternalistic and at worst it is egocentric and autocratic. This is precisely the paradigm of leadership that Jesus discouraged. No wonder many of us find it distasteful.
How about a renewed vision of leadership as leading for the well being of the led rather than for the self-interest of the leader? Let’s reject manipulative techniques and especially manipulative leaders and begin honoring and respecting people. After all Jesus believed in people, shouldn’t we?
Properly understood and practiced leadership is an essential ingredient in moving the church forward. It’s that understanding and practice that needs correction. As church leaders I hope we will seek and find that correction rather than let our disappointment with the leadership status quo discourage us.

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