The Truth About Leadership

James Kouzes and Barry Posner
2010, Jossey-Bass

Firstly, this blog post exists more or less so that I can remember what I thought about this book for a certain ministry and mission assignment. That’s because I had to read a secular book on leadership, and also because writing these thoughts now will help me remember later.

Basically, the book is a compact summary of everything these two guys have learnt about leadership in their last 30 years or so of talking about and researching and improving leadership. Apparently, they have a bestseller – The Leadership Challenge – and have developed a tool called the Leadership Practices Inventory. I’d never heard of them before, and I basically picked the book because of its promise of not being jargon-y and because it was on the bestsellers shelf at Dymocks. I seriously did not want to research books about leadership on top of researching leadership.

Nevertheless, what I read here is not mind-blowing. It’s not meant to be. The reason it’s called the truth about leadership is that the authors have, over their time in the field, discerned these common denominators about leadership. What you get is the common grace of wisdom. It’s like how some of the proverbial wisdom may have had roots in other ANE traditions. The wisdom contained here has so much in common with Christian thinking, it’s not funny.

Let me summarise by listing the ‘truths’, with my short comment:
1) You Make a Difference – to be a leader, you have to have self-belief
2) Credibility is the Foundation of Leadership – self-explanatory
3) Values Drive Commitment – you need to be clear about what you believe so that people can be onboard with you
4) Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart – think about the future
5) You can’t do it Alone – self-explanatory
6) Trust Rules – self-explanatory
7) Challenge is the Crucible for Greatness – the way one faces challenges is what sets leaders apart
8) You Either Lead by Example or you don’t Lead at all – self-explanatory
9) The Best Leaders are the Best Learners – the importance of continual learning, and that leadership is learnable.
10) Leadership is an Affair of the Heart – loving in leadership – where love = ‘loving what you do’ as well as ‘showing care’.

As you can see, it’s all quite simple really. As you can also see, this is stuff that a Christian could easily digest and incorporate. Credibility, trust, love – these are things we know about but in a fuller sense. We shouldn’t need secular literature to tell us this. But it’s a helpful reminder nevertheless.

The book is short and easy to read. If you’re looking for something short, secular, and easy to read for the ministry and mission assignment, just ask.

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