Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

It may not be rocket science, but it is Leadership Mystique

Written by: on October 24, 2014

The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries is very simply a wonderfully insightful and useful book. Read it. Then, read it again.

The text offers a multiplicity of insights into the personal and organizational dynamics of leadership. It includes questionnaires that allow one to relatively quickly further assess what might be potential “blind-spots” in personal understanding affecting both oneself and the organization for which one works.

Along with being an eminent business professional with a background in economics, Kets de Vries is also a trained psychoanalyst and calls leaders further into the recognition of needing personal psychological healthiness in order to best lead an organization forward. His delineation of the essential characteristics of healthy individuals is refreshing as it includes both a significant respect for self and a deep respect for others.

It is in the emphasis on respect for others permeating Kets de Vries work that I found myself to be particularly captured by its poignancy. In an era where the bottom-line is still being pursued at break-neck speed, come-hell-or-high-water despite major negative consequences being experienced in past years around the world, it is very important for someone to be articulating the human dimensions of leadership and organizations so well in a way that does not forget that doors need to remain open and lights need to remain on. Kent de Vries in fact writes that, “My main objective in studying leadership is to bring the person back into the organization.”

This book really is a gem and I would like to comment on it at length. However, I will limit myself to a few broad brush-stroke thoughts on a few of his pieces from the text.

First, I loved one of the initial stories that the author relates about a frog trying to cross a river full of alligators while an owl looks on. The frog calls up to the owl and asks for advice about how to cross the river without getting eaten. The owl replies, suggesting that the frog flap his legs as quickly as possible and doing this should bring him safely to the other side of the river. The frog does it. As you might already imagine, it doesn’t go well. On the frogs way down into the maw of a waiting alligator the frog wails up to the owl, “why did you tell me to do this!?” The owl offering condolences and apologies replies that concepts/theories are its main interests, not implementation. To all this Kent de Vries offers the very well known and too little practiced wisdom that “synchronizing vision and action…aligning ideas and execution” is vital. Theory and action/practice go together; especially as concerns running of organizations, oversight of people as part of a workforce

Second, I appreciated his emphasis on the need to avoid the “mussel syndrome.” This is the tendency to latch-on for life to one way of doing things to the detriment of people and structure even though life is like an ever-changing river. As the philosopher Heraclitus notes and Kent de Vries offers, “You can never step into the same river twice.” Adaptation is key to an organization’s long-term health, but to be fully healthy it must be various forms of sustainable adaptation that don’t enact wholesale purgings of the most valuable resources at a moments notice. Kent de Vries does an excellent job walking us through the tension of change and stability.

Finally for here, I appreciated his ending focus on the four H’s of leadership: Hope, Humanity, Humility and Humor [the last H echoes as reminder of his just previous discussion in the book of the necessity of the wise fool (the morosophe per the French) as partner for the leader as both confidant and essentially as prophet].

Overall, Kent de Vries calls leaders to bring a sense of community love, community freedom and community purpose to organizational culture.  He does a really, really  good job.  It’s engaging and persuasive.  You should read it.

About the Author

Clint Baldwin

5 responses to “It may not be rocket science, but it is Leadership Mystique”

  1. Hey Clint,
    Hope you had a great birthday. I too enjoyed this book greatly and I agree, it needs to be read and reread. You did a wonderful review of the book. May I have your permission to pass your writing on to others?

    I enjoyed the frog story also. I had a chance to share this story as a practical application only hours after reading it. As Manfred said, “Although the comments and conclusions contained herein are based on a large body of research on leadership, it’s not my intention to write a highly theoretical book.”

    Rather than the 4 H’s I focused on the 5 T’s. Ha! Bless you my friend.

  2. Richard Volzke says:

    Great post. Your overview of Kent de Vries’ book was well done. The quote by the author, “synchronizing vision and action…aligning ideas and execution” is something I have found is lacking in most churches. Coming from the business world, I understand the need for aligning vision and execution. I’ve found that people typically are either a visionary or an executor. For example, I can easily understand a vision and execute…jus tell me what you would like done, and then get out of my way and let me make it reality. Visionaries can strategize and easily see the big picture. However, many visionaries lack the skills to make the ideas work in the real world. In ministry I have found that pastors often have a vision or idea, but are unable to make it work in a practical way within their church. Somehow, we as leaders need to bring the visionaries and operations people together so that effective ministry can happen in all churches across America. We need to engage people who can orchestrate people and programs, and manage change within the church.

  3. Michael Badriaki says:

    Yo Clint!! Loved your post. I agree, the author did a great job on this book, it’s a must keep for me. When I read about the four Hs, I though of you. Especially. “Humor”! You express humor in such a refreshing way Clint and indeed influences life for those around you in positive way that encourages flourishing.

    You are the embodiment of a leader who uses humor well.

    Appreciate you brother

    • Clint Baldwin says:

      It is good to be appreciated by my friend! And…it is reciprocated! May we laugh much more together and may we lead forward into important new things together too!

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