The One Must Read Leadership Book for This Year

Pope Francis why he leads the way he leads   chris lowneyThis past week I have read two outstanding books that jump into Brian's BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR category. It is going to be very hard to dislodge them from their #1 and #2 rankings.

At #2 is Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society by John Gardner. I won't say anything else about that book, other then - deeply insightful, wonderfully written, personally challenging and inspiring.

At #1 is Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, Lessons From the First Jesuit Pope by Chris Lowney. I am going to be saying a lot about this book in the days ahead (p.s.  If the Catholic Pope illustration bothers you, be sure to read the last paragraph).

The amount of personal reflection generated by nearly every page is incredible. This is a book about:

  • self-leadership,
  • spiritual leadership
  • servant leadership
  • Christian leadership
  • "like Jesus" leadership.

Lowney uses Pope Francis' first year as the case study that illustrates this kind of leadership. Lowney goes beyond Pope Francis and borrows generously from other examples of servant leaders. Many of them are unknown to most of us, for their sphere of influence is particular and focused in their own region, company or organization. Others transcend the local and are global in their reputation: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ignatius of Loyola and others.

This book has a fundamental conviction. Great leadership emerges out of wise self-leadership. Self-leadership requires a deep penetration into one's core heart motives, desires, values, distortions and flaws. With that hard gained self-awareness comes the invitation to a reordered, renewed heart that is ESSENTIALLY focused on the needs of others and NOT on one's own ego agenda.

With that heart orientation as well as a character compatible with such orientation, then necessary leadership skills are added for fruitful leadership. But . . . the leadership skills without the right heart motive, character substance and service orientation - will never be good enough. Skills without heart, character and "other-centeredness" will inevitably deteriorate to self-interest that hurts others.

main reasons why we do not trust our leaders********
We all know this.
Public distrust about LEADERSHIP IN ALL INSTITUTIONS is at record highs
We simply no longer trust, believe or count on our leaders. We now believe those who lead us are fundamentally driven by self-interest and personal agenda  (or the interests of a narrow constituency and the agendas of special interest group) and NOT by compassion and sacrifice for the greater good of the common person.

The traditional ways of Power Based Leadership have UTTERLY FAILED. Every now and then a rare leader emerges to show a different way. it is the way of the suffering servant, Messiah and Lord Jesus. Mother Teresa showed us that way. Nelson Mandela did so. Likewise Gandhi. Now a new role model is positioned at one of the most prominent global positions of leadership. He immediately began to show us this alternative way.

Our evangelical culture is a "rock star" culture.

We like all others in North America love the celebrity, the image, the charismatic figure, the good looking appearance (whatever their personal image happens to be). 

Pope Francis is a rock star. However, the kind of rock star is a stone of stumbling "rock star" to the powers of the world. The same "rock star" as was his Lord, Savior, Friend Jesus, the original stone of stumbling. 

Jesus is the rock star worth following. We need real and right now role models to remind us of The Way.
Stay tuned...
More to come...

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

Susan  B. Anthony on not trusting leadershipp.s.  My admiration of Pope Francis does not mean I subscribe to Catholic teachings that are particular to Catholicism. On all such matters, I believe in the Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical church teachings. 

p.p.s.  My admiration of Pope Francis does mean this. Evangelical leaders need to face the brutal facts (Jim Collins) and that is this Pope is FAR CLOSER to the leadership way of Jesus then the VAST MAJORITY of evangelical leaders. Most of us are still waiting for a real Christ-like, servant leader to emerge to inspire and reinvigorate the tired amd toromg, slowly losing our way evangelicalism of the 21st century.

p.p.p.s.  This is true not only for the evangelical world, but the emergent & post-modern traditions,  pentecostal and charismatic traditions, the Reformed groups, the theologically liberal world... We are all generally a mess. We are all generally mistrusted. We have all earned that mis-trust.

p.p.p.p.s. There are always Pockets of Resistance and Pockets of Servant Greatness in each tradition. But they are just that - pockets. 

p.p.p.p.p.s.  Oh yes, chances are that you and I (well, I know I am, you will have to decide about yourself) are part of the problem. It is not just the leaders out there who are not easily trusted. It is the leader in the mirror.