The “Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice” edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana is an intriguing leadership compilation of great leadership writings. Birthed out of a belief in a lack of strong academic and scholarly, researched-based writing on the topic of leadership theory and practice, Nohria and Khurana have compiled a significant work addressing this breach in leadership thought and literature.
“The world is crying out for better leadership.” is the claim and serious questions are being raised about the level of competence and character that is being bred into a Western and developing, globalized leadership culture. Among the questions being addressed, Nohria and Khurana ask, “Are these (elite higher education) institutions developing leaders who have the competence and character necessary to lead the web of complex institutions that have become so vital to the collective health of modern societies?”
The framework of the “Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice” lays out a great possibility of this work addressing the chasm between the way our institutions are developing leaders of competence and character and the results being demonstrated in the private, public, and social sectors making up society. The book is structured into five major sections that give it this great possibility of tackling the divide by creating a potential cycle of growth and reflection the develops the whole leader.
In my church planter training experience, I have primarily used Robert E. Logan’s “Intensive Church Planter Training” material and I find a direct parallel between Logan’s training framework and the structure and the structure and dualities Nohria and Khurana lay out that create the great possibility of better preparing the leaders the world needs. I find the parallel to be as follows:
|LOGAN||NOHRIA and KHARANA|
|Who am I?||Thinking and Doing vs. Becoming and Being|
|What am I called to do?||Universal vs. Contingent|
|Who will do it with me?||Person vs. Social Role|
|How will I do it?||Agency vs. Constraint|
|How will I know if I am successful?||Performance vs. Meaning|
In Logan’s set of questions and modules of training, each question is deeply developed. “Who am I?” focuses on the identity of the planter/leader and the tension between transactional existence and transformational presence. “What am I called to do?” centers on contextualizing a broad calling into and exact setting and situation where a planter’s/leader’s work will be lived out. “Who will do it with me?” draws attention to the dynamic of relational intelligence and the navigating of complex responsibilities, delegation, and empowerment of teams and varying groups of people and audiences. “How will I do it?” concentrates on developing fluid plans and contingencies that allow for visionary thinking, strategic action, and innovative flexibility that accomplishes the goals. Finally, “How will I know if I am successful?” emphasizes the battle of “winning” with quantitative outcomes and “winning” through qualitative results. Through each section of Nohria and Khurana’s work, each article addressed aspects of each of these questions, tensions and foci.
Having walked closely with many planters and living out a personal planting and leading journey of my own, I have experienced these five questions and dualities as a continual framework for a life long learning loop.
I believe this cycle has allowed for a truly transformational journey requiring deep rflection and growth while on the frontline of leadership theory and practice. I have personally developed Logan’s five questions into a narrative leadership development and planter training model (Who am I? – Storied; “What am I called to do? – Ruined; “Who will do it with me?” – Banding; How will I do it? – Purposed; and “How will I know if I am successful?” – Reigning) and in light of Nohria and Khurana’s dualities introduced, I can see a strong alignment leading to the development of character and competency. The combining of these frameworks can be viewed as follows: 1) Living a “Storied” life: balancing the identity search between “doing” and “being;” 2) Living a “Ruined” life: balancing the calling search between the “universal” in a “contingent;” 3) Living a “Banding” life: balancing the relational search between “person” and “social role;” 4) Living a “Purposed” life: balancing the strategy search between “agency” and “constraint;” and 5) Living a “Reigning” life: balancing the success search between “performance” and “meaning.”
Ultimately I would conclude that the “Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice” is a fantastic start to a needed initiative to raise the bar on an ultimate leadership development journey that needs to be expanded to answer “the cry of our world.” A work such as this can truly help our institutions establish a more robust effort of developing the kind of leaders with the full character and competency to respond to the demand and complexity of modern societies emerging in our world.
Nohria, Nitin, and Rakesh Khurana, eds. Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: an Hbs Centennial Colloquium On Advancing Leadership. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2010.