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Friday, September 16, 2016

"Reviewing Leadership" (Robert J. Banks & Bernice M. Ledbetter)

TITLE: Reviewing Leadership: A Christian Evaluation of Current Approaches (Engaging Culture)
AUTHOR: Robert J. Banks & Bernice M. Ledbetter
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, (240 pages).

Leadership is one of the most challenging issues in any organization. Bookstores are stocked with lots of leadership material. Seminars and conferences on leadership remained popular. Reputed leaders are frequently called upon to give talks and speeches to teach leadership. With so many perspectives, sometimes we need to have a guidebook to give us a sense of what kinds of leadership are there. In this very helpful guide, we have one of the most comprehensive guides to current approaches to leadership, especially from a Christian point of view. It has been updated with new material. The first edition stems from the "Faith at Work Movement" initiative from Princeton University during a time where laity leadership was emerging in popularity and importance. The focus was on integrating theology with practice and letting faith/spirituality resonate as one. They explore the purpose; the social implication; the theory; the practice; and the organizational challenges of the day. In this second edition, the scope has been expanded with added material on themes such as ethics; ethical leadership; spiritual leadership; spiritual maturity; spiritual values; holistic approaches; resilience; and organizational analysis. The review comprises of eight large segments of leadership.

The first is leadership as academic discipline. The authors explore the mass of material from journals, publications, research, and so on. They probe the motivation behind the interest. They wonder if interest will be sustained. They also ask about the relationship between faith and work. They see three streams of leadership as: 1) Focusing on the leader; 2) Focusing on followers; 3) Focusing on Culture.

The second is a historical and biblical survey that looks at both Jewish and Christian writings that deal with creation, providence, faith, justice, redemption, love, and others. Jewish writings tend to see leadership more as guidance. The Early Church sees Paul's leadership as visionary. Readers will find this chapter fascinating as there is a nice summary of Benedictine, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Quaker, Methodist, and Pentecostal views.

The third chapter sees the spiritual and religious dimensions as the foundations for leadership ethics. The link between leadership and ethics lies in three things: 1) Ethical commitment; 2) Ethical consciousness; 3) Ethical competency. From biographies to general studies, the central theme is relationship of the Christian leader.

The fourth chapter covers some popular faith-based approaches to leadership such as Jewish-Liberal; Protestant; and Reformed perspectives. From Christ-centered leadership to Trinitarian styles, we get an overview of the use of power and influence.

The fifth chapter covers the practice of leadership where the authors explore the holistic approaches; servant leadership; and integrity, while the sixth chapter touches on the topic of legacy. Chapter six goes widely ecumenical and includes other religious perspectives like Buddhism and Islam. On that matter, the authors believe that the leadership principles pointed out are not restricted to practicing Buddhists or Muslims because there are common traits applicable to all. Finally, chapter eight offers readers a few case studies.

So What?
The book is a primer on Christian leadership and the modern perspectives on what it means to lead in faith. The bibliography on leadership is extensive and the authors do a credible work of summarizing and comparing the different approaches taken by various groups. That is a very difficult task, given how fluid the topic of leadership can be. In fact, with the rate of changes in leadership theories and practices, there is a good chance that there will be a third edition to follow up on this commendable work. Conveniently categorized, readers will be able to take this book as a launchpad to evaluate and study other books. In this sense, it can be a catalog of the huge amount of leadership resources available in the market. In fact, the confusing array of leadership works only make a book like this highly desirable and essential.

As a textbook for leadership theory, what I like is the way the authors figure out the key themes of various leadership approaches and to connect the way it influences modern leadership styles and strategies. I have heard about leadership definitions and understandings from so many people to such a point that leadership mean so many different things to so many people.

Bernice Ledbetter teaches organizational theory and management at Pepperdine University. Robert Banks is Professor of the History of Christian Thought at MacQuarie University while David Greenhalgh is Professor of Education and leadership at Eastern university. With their varied skills and specializations, all of them have a common interest in all things leadership. With their guidance, they have produced this wonderful work of reference and created a structure to understand leadership at large and how Christians can learn from the many different facets of faith and leadership. The comprehensive treatment makes this book an ideal introductory text for leadership studies.

A book of this nature will suffer from the weakness of reductionism and over-simplication. Each leadership perspective has been written from a particular need and context. This is a limitation due to the need to be brief. That is why it is important for the advanced reader to do additional research by reading the materials cited in the book. Like a book review, "Reviewing Leadership" essentially gives a bird-eye view of the various approaches. Don't just quote this book. Quote from the materials that this book points toward. What we can cite is the frameworks and the structures adopted by the authors. This alone is worth the price of the book.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Academic and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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