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Christian Reflections: Leadership Challenge, Book Review Example

Pages: 2

Words: 469

Book Review

In chapter 6 of Kouzes and Posner’s Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge, written by Nancy Ortberg, the latter advances a somewhat paradoxical point, which makes her thesis all the more compelling: namely, despite the individuality that appears to be emphasized in the very concept of leadership, Ortberg stress that leadership should not be thought of in terms of individuality, but instead the collective. The crucial thesis is that true leadership thus does not maintain the distinction seemingly inherent to the concept of a leadership as stressing the difference of someone who possesses authority vis-à-vis others, but rather interprets the leader as one who tries to point the community away from such distinctions in order to promote a unity.

Accordingly, in Ortberg’s (2006) words, “leaders foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust.” (p. 83) This can be considered paradoxical to the extent that the successful leader is one who in a sense minimizes his or her very own distinction as a leader: the leader is the one who formulates to the community or collective that their goal is the community or collective itself, in so far as what the authors term “cooperative goals” are essentially synonymous with collective aims and ambitions.

The anti-individualism of Ortberg’s concept of leadership is entirely consistent with the anti-individualism of Christian Scripture. Saint Paul writes in 1 Corinthians1:10, for example, that “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” The very structure of leadership appears to create division: it creates a hierarchy. Certainly, hierarchy exists in Christianity: but the Lord is God, Jesus Christ. Among men, all are equal: as Paul writes, there are to be no divisions, but instead unity. If leadership exists among men, it only exists to promote unity and thereby destroy hierarchies and distinctions, thus working towards a communal and collective goal.

In terms of my own personal leadership development, the scriptural support for Ortberg’s account of leadership is encouraging. Within a pervasive capitalist ideology that emphasizes traits such as selfishness, consumerism and individuality, it is difficult to find a point of critique to this dominant, aggressive and destructive world-view. In much the same way, the very concept of “leadership” seems to be a part of this capitalist viewpoint. Nonetheless these approaches show that there is a way to critique this system and emphasize Christian values against capitalism through leadership by thinking of the leader as one who promotes communal and collective goals ahead of selfishness. Christianity thus becomes the model for anti-individualistic leadership principles because of its anti-individualistic foundation.

References

Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z. (eds.) (2004). Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

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