There is no shortage of materials on leadership. An amazon.com search on “leadership” resulted in 24,662 books and a Google search scored 59,800,000 possibilities for the inquisitive leader to explore. Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana’s book Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice is an excellent resource for anyone who is serious about the study of leadership. They are very clear that “This edited volume has one primary purpose—to stimulate serious scholarly research on leadership”. This is not a how-to book on leadership; rather it is an academic look at the theories of leadership. Having read many how-to books on leadership, this was a welcomed approach. I loved the fact that Nohria and Khurana incorporated psychology, sociology, economics, history, and cultural contexts into their discussion of leadership. This is something most books on leadership never address, as if a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership functions in a vacuum.
While Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice is not a manual on how to do leadership, it offers many practical aspects to explore that are directly related to a person’s practical approach to leadership. While it is not possible to in a short space to elaborate on the many specifics offer in this book, there are a couple areas that hit close to home; 1) Cultural Context and 2) Religious Beliefs.
“Leadership is a social relationship with three key components—leaders, followers, and the context in which they interact.” Many books and seminars on leadership talk about leaders and followers, but totally neglect the context. Leadership always functions within a context. To fully understand the context, one must understand the culture. Several years ago I was in the Philippines leading seminars are leadership for local pastors and leaders. Each workshop ended with a time of questions and answers. On one particular occasion, several people started asking questions about confrontation. These ranged from issues of divisiveness, insubordination, blatant sin, and everything in-between. We began to look at biblical models for confrontation, models of interpersonal relationship skills, popular church models, parental models, and even some business models. After a while, I sensed some uneasiness in the group. I asked them if any of these models seems to be of any help. Their answer surprised me. They said, “You don’t understand. Many of the people who we may need to confront are older than us.” What I did not understand was that the real question was not “how do we confront?”, the question was “how do we address these serious issues in our churches without being able to confront and elder?” For them, confronting an elder was a far worse sin. We spent the rest of the day working together to find a solution that addressed the issues while fitting within the cultural context.
I have watched the confidence placed in christian leaders continue to decline over the years. Part of this is due to the fact that we have turned the role of pastor into that of CEO. Pastors are called to be shepherds but they increasing find themselves trying to run the whole sheep industry. Instead of leading the flock, they lead meetings, work with finances, plan building projects, manage staff, etc. The fact is, many pastors lose leadership credibility because they try to lead in areas for which they are not called or equipped.
The other reason they lose credibility is because they become self-serving and have no integrity. Nohria and Khurana draw the connection between leadership and a person’s theology. “Beyond promoting greater meaning and particular systems of morality/ethics, religions thus can be seen as vehicles for fostering integrity in the pursuit of those objectives through their conception of an afterlife.” The world needs to see leaders who are more concerned with what God thinks that what people think. They need to see leaders who have a moral compass that guides them in a way that the world may not understand, but will be drawn to.
 Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana, eds., Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: An Hbs Centennial Colloquium On Advancing Leadership (Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press, 2010), 1.
 Ibid., 306
 Ibib., 281