If you know me at all, you know I appreciate the practical applications. Peter Northouse’s Leadership: Theory & Practice has immediately become one of my new favorite books on leadership – one that I know I will be utilizing for years to come. Northouse, an academic with extensive experience in the field of communication, has been providing information and guidance in the realm of leadership for three decades. Leadership is classified within the social sciences and offers not only a robust understanding of the types of leadership but also provides short assessments that can be utilized at the end of each chapter.
Northouse provides a historical context for how the definition of leadership has developed over the last century and states that scholars today can agree that “they can’t come up with a common definition for leadership” as global and generational differences develop complexities when approaching this subject. I found Northouse’s reference to Zaleznick very insightful, stating that in 1977 he,
“…suggested that leaders…are emotionally active and involved. They seek to shape ideas instead of responding to them and act to expand the available options to solve long-standing problems. Leaders change the way people think about what is possible.”
For me, this statement has distilled much of what we have been discussing over the course of this year. From the historical works on evangelicalism and capitalism, to being self-differentiated, to how our brain chemistry impacts every part of our functioning, all these works have been about people who were not afraid to look at the world differently and offer alternative possibilities to the societal norms of their time. I can envision utilizing Northouse’s book in several ways: to grow my own understanding of leadership theory and self-assessment; to have the teams I lead take the assessments for further personal and professional development opportunities; to implement the material within the undergraduate courses I teach for scholars’ students; and to incorporating the team and inclusive leadership chapters into my NPO prototype.
In the chapter on servant leadership, I appreciated his underscore of the paradoxical nature of the phrase as they are generally opposing terms. I did find the characteristics and model very helpful, especially within the context of us as Christ followers leaning into what it means to lead with a global perspective. As Northouse states, “servant leadership does not occur in a vacuum but occurs within a give organizational context and a particular culture.” As someone who works on mobilizing students, faculty, and staff into study and service opportunities around the country and world, I cannot begin to emphasize the significance of context when I lead pre-departure trainings. There is so much to know about power, authority within the culture, social norms, gender understandings, and communication if you want to approach from a posture of humility and truly servant hearted.
Reflecting on this reading, I feel more confident in the non-traditional solutions I have found to problems, in the way I communicate with my supervisors and colleagues, and in how I’ve been equipped for the work that the Lord has given me. At the same time, I’m equally confident that someone else can be equipped to do completely different work, approach leadership in an opposite manner to me, and still be effective in the area they’ve been given to focus on. While Northouse will be one I refer to many times as I move forward in my leadership journey, I am most excited about the potential it has for me to empower others to truly embrace who they are and grow in specific areas of leadership that they need to succeed in whatever realm they find themselves being planted in.
 Northouse, 5.
 Ibid., 18.
 Ibid., 260.