DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Do We Need Another Leadership Book?

Written by: on November 5, 2015

INTRODUCTION

Upon reading Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, it makes me wonder if we need another leadership book.  Taken from a collection of leadership essays, the editors, Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khuruna, do such a splendid job at gathering the insights from some of the best leadership minds, that it does beg the question.

SUMMARY

How does one really summarize a book on leadership that is so vast in its scope?  Divided into five pivotal sections,  this book guides the reader through various ideas, theoretical concepts, studies, and charts in what seems to be an attempt to be the “Bible” of leadership. This book is not something that can be digested quickly, but there are many concepts that must marinate before they are actually realized and practiced.

This book is art imitating life.  A quick search on leadership with Amazon.com will render over 173k book titles.  We are inundated with leadership ideas, concepts, opinions and theories.  It almost seems like you do not have any street cred in ministry if you have not written a leadership book.  We are told that Jesus was a CEO, and that if you structure your organization in a certain way, then you can be the next GE of the church world.  While all of these ideas are useful, so many times leading is not a complex set of theories or walking out the latest fad, it is simply getting your hands dirty and getting engaged in the leadership process.

ANALYSES

In the past 3 weeks, I have had a face to face encounter with leadership.  As most know, I have transitioned from a ministry life being a number two leader to now sitting in the first chair.  In other words, every decision that I am making on a daily basis can potentially make or break the church.  In my previous position, I sat under a covering.  While there was spiritual warfare, it was not as intense.  While I had to make decisions previously, the weight of decisions I make now impact people’s lives, their insurance policies, where they can afford to live, what they can potentially buy their kids for Christmas, and a host of other things.  Every decision must be measured, weighed, and made with precision.

So when I came to chapter entitled, Decision Making as Leadership Foundation, I was certainly hooked.  Michael Useem, the author of the article, says this, “Making good and timely leadership decisions on behalf of the organization has long been recognized by some scholars and practitioners as a defining aspect of leadership….Jack Welch singled out his ability to make fast decisions without regrets as a defining quality of his own leadership at GE (p.510).”   Useem further points out that making no decision is in itself a decision as well.

Now, it is not the mundane decision that Useem is speaking of, but rather it is the decisions that are being made that will move the organization forward or grind it to a halt.  In other words, it is the decision that only the leader or group of leaders can make at times.  This is a sobering reality.  For many, they cannot live with this pressure and will only make a decision if it is perfect, but those types of decisions never happen for a leader.

So if leadership decisions that we make are not always guaranteed for 100% success, how do we lead?  Useem points out the 70% rule that is employed in military service.  If the decision can get into a 70% chance of effectiveness, then the decision should be made with confidence.  This paralyzes some, but for a true leader, they can confidently make the decision.  How?

Buried deep in Useem’s work is this quote, “Underpreparation is a major source of suboptimal leadership decisions (p.512).”  If a leader is unprepared in his development as a leader, if he does not prepare the organization, or his character is not prepared, then the decisions will be poor.  Here’s why.  A leader that prepares is preparing for the decision, he is thinking two steps ahead of a successful decision, and he has prepared his character to be able to stand by the decision without passing the buck when the decision failed.  A prepared life will lead to good decision making.  A prepared organization will lead to good decision making as well.

Conclusion

I have read many leadership books.  I have always seen good leaders as being men and women who have a high risk tolerance.  They are willing to take a risk that others are not.  Perhaps the reason they can take a risk is because they are prepared for both the sunshine or the rain.  This one contribution in this book is worth its weight in gold to me in my context right now.

 

About the Author

mm

Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

9 responses to “Do We Need Another Leadership Book?”

  1. mm Rose Anding says:

    Greeting number one Pastor ,
    I read your blog but i was touched by your heart, i too have set in that chair, if i offered you any advise it would be “Keep Prayer at forefront”, have your prayer warriors praying and covering you daily.

    There are some important variables that leadership must consider and follow.The leader must have the Character to Lead because everyone wants to be trusted and this is especially true in a close, personal relationship. But being viewed as trustworthy is not something that just happens by accident. Trust is something that you must build into a relationship and then it needs to be valued and maintained. When it comes to trust self-awareness is key. A team or church is looking for a leader to lead by example and to lead with integrity. It is easy to lose a church’s trust, even something small that may not appear to be of consequence to the leader can be paramount for the church. A leader should realize that trust is the foundation for the relationships they have with those they lead. The more a team trusts their leader, the more risks they are willing to take with them.
    These are the most important variables, Personal Integrity, and Ethics, maintaining consistency in their words and behavior across situations, holding themselves and others to high ethical standards, and candidly and openly sharing information with others. And the leaders need to take personal accountability not only for their own behavior, but also for the behavior of their organizations.

    The thoughts of Author Duane Elmer reminds the church that the Servanthood approach of humility must be used when serving. The towel-and-robe metaphor illustrates the servant’s attitude. Will it be power and prestige (the robe) or humility (the towel), which represents the attitude of the servant.

    Jason, I believe you are prepared for the task, may God smile upon you and give you the grace for the task at hand. Thanks ! Rose Maria

  2. Aaron Cole says:

    Jason,

    Great blog and application to where you are in your leadership journey. As you reflect upon your own level of preparedness in light of your new leadership responsibility, what do you find lacking? What do you wish you would have spent more time prepping for?

    Aaron

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      AC,
      Great question. I think it would’ve helped if I was able to make more decisions as an associate that I completely owned. Not sure how that is possible. Another might be leading a service periodically…working and planning all elements.
      There is a great responsibility to what we do. People listen, love and sometimes hate what we have to say. The pressure is different.

      I feel confident in leading, preaching and even pastoring…but it is hard to prepare for when every decision is yours.
      Thanks!

  3. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason,

    Thanks for the well thought-through blog. I love the balance you bring out that good preparation is about our whole lives: preparing our character as well as preparing for any given decision.

    I want to comment on one thing you said: that now as the #1 chair you sense a lack of a “covering.”

    I don’t know A of G polity, but I will say that in the Presbyterian world we are an “elder ruled” church. So, even in twenty five years as a senior pastor I both led, and had to submit to a board of elders. Frankly it is an awkward arrangement at times. But many, many times I knew the value of having a dozen mature leaders who kind of looked over my shoulder. There were times when I disagreed with their decisions, and even worse was when they were right and I was wrong.

    One of the things that made/makes me the most nervous about being retired is that now I don’t formally answer to anyone (except my wife of course). But seriously, I’ve thought hard about making sure I still have accountability in my life. That’s part of the “covering” I need the most.

    Fortunately I have an accountability team of five other ministry leaders in our town, and we have met together for at least 10 years. We are committed to checking in with each other weekly via e mail, to give an account of the disciplines we seek, and the sin with which we struggle. We also have a face to face lunch once a month. They know ALL my stuff.

    All of this is to say – PURSUE covering for yourself, be it a formal elder board, or an informal band of brothers.

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Marc, we do have a board that I do submit to on some decisions. The guys fast and pray with me on Friday, pray with me on Sunday, and really function as elders. While I am the key leader, I appreciate them leading with me.

      Hope all is well with the new grandchild. Sure u are not spoiling her.

  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Jason,
    Congratulations on your new position as senior pastor! The moment you have been waiting for has arrived with new ministerial expectations, delights and challenges. You are well prepared for such a time as this spiritually, academically and personally.
    I just wanted to add another point that Michael Useem makes about low preparation. He states, “Consider one important barrier to good choices: overconfidence, that is, when a leader believes that an outcome is more certain than the facts would warrant.” (512). Useem believes low preparation in leadership decisions is quite apparent in stressful situations. One of the reasons companies develop leadership teams is to enable them to “reach good and timely leadership decisions in challenging environments.” (513).

  5. Jason Kennedy says:

    Claire,
    That was another thought that stood out in the chapter. I think a longer tenured leader can face this when all decisions have been right.

    The crazy thing about growth and pastoring is that it is not a sure thing. What works well for Aaron may not work for me and vice versa. This is why I think that a leader who stops growing will stall his organization.

    I also think that humility is a powerful tool for a leader.

    I think this is Useem’s point. Thanks for the encouragement Claire.

  6. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason:

    Welcome to the fire!

    You said, “A leader that prepares is preparing for the decision, he is thinking two steps ahead of a successful decision, and he has prepared his character to be able to stand by the decision without passing the buck when the decision failed. A prepared life will lead to good decision making. A prepared organization will lead to good decision making as well.”

    Caution point: Yes, you need to be prepared but you also have people around you that are “sounding boards” for you. When a leader is isolated the potential for mistakes is multiplied! Sure a lot rides on your role as a Sr. Pastor but you are NOT alone!

    Phil

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