Published by Jeremy Fagan on 7th October 2019

Some recent books on leadership

Tim Harle
Programme Leader for Christian Approaches to Leadership and Coordinator for the Centre for Leadership Learning
Sarum College

I have recently updated the reading lists for Sarum College’s MA in Christian Approaches to Leadership, and am happy to take this opportunity to share some newly published books with a wider audience. All books were published in 2019, except where indicated.

We start with two collections, which bring together contributions from a number of scholars around the world.  Ron Riggio has edited What’s Wrong With Leadership?: Improving Leadership Research and Practice, while Brigid Carroll, Josh Firth and Suze Wilson have curated After Leadership. Both collections are published by Routledge, but only the former is currently available in paperback. Riggio’s collection has a broad scope, ranging from conceptual exploration of leadership as a process to challenges to individualistic/western/male/etc thinking. The latter collection consciously echoes MacIntyre’s After Virtue, arguing for a clean break with leadership studies as traditionally practised.

Another book only available in hardback, with an outrageous price tag, is Chloe Lynch’s Ecclesial Leadership as Friendship. Lynch, who lectures at the London School of Theology, offers an important perspective on power, in relation to incarnation and kenosis. Her chapter on servant leadership should be a game changer, laying down an important marker for those in churches and beyond who appropriate Greenleaf’s ideas loosely. (Chloe is presenting a paper at the 2019 MODEM Conference. Ed.) Subtlety is not a feature of Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell’s Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results(Berrett-Koehler, 2018). The collection runs the paradoxical risk of elevating servant leaders to transformational heroes; it also occupies the borderland with explicit Christian commitment.

A book, which unashamedly links leadership thinking with a biblical understanding is Justin A Irving and Mark L Strauss’ Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leaders (Baker Academic). It inhabits a North American milieu, and engages only with mainstream leadership literature (exemplified by Kouzes and Posner). It thus stands in the tradition of Mike Bonem’s In Pursuit of Great AND Godly Leadership: Tapping the Wisdom of the World for the Kingdom of God (Jossey-Bass, 2012). More single-minded in its focus is Biblical Leadership: Theology for the Everyday Leader, edited by Benjamin K Forrest and Chet Roden (Kregel, 2017). The editors have invited a number of (mainly male, mainly North American) biblical scholars to write about biblical books in their canonical order for insights into leadership: the result, while rather narrowly focused, weaves together observations about personalities and principles.

Leadership Development: A Complexity Approach, by Kevin Flinn (Routledge, 2018) is one of those rare books that combines academic perspicuity with practical experience. I particularly empathised with his comments about being forced to define Learning Outcomes in advance: Flinn has “no idea what people will learn, but I can tell you about the themes we might explore” (p146). Rather more polemical is Martin Parker’s Shut Down the Business School: What’s Wrong with Management Education (Pluto Press, 2018).

I am sorry that two books, published in Canada in 2015, have only recently come to my attention. They are Marc Hurwitz and Samantha Hurwitz’s Leadership is Half the Story: A Fresh Look at Followership, Leadership, and Collaboration(University of Toronto Press) and Gary V Nelson and Peter M Dickens’ Leading in Disorienting Times: Navigating Church and Organizational Change (TCP Books). The former makes an important contribution to the, still relatively sparse, literature on followership, while the latter offers practical insights informed by complexity theories.

A pair of books, which are perhaps aimed at airport bookshops rather than academic libraries, are Tomas’ Chamorro-Premuzic’s Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It) (Harvard Business Review Press) and Merve Emre’s What’s Your Type?: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing (Collins, 2018). Both authors address topics that are of more than passing interest to many in our churches.

Lastly, a number of key texts have appeared in new editions recently. Leadership: Contemporary Critical Perspectives, edited by Brigid Carroll, Jackie Ford and Scott Taylor has appeared in a second, lightly revised, edition: I reviewed the original for Modem in 2016. Simon Western’s Leadership: A Critical Text has reached its third edition. Western retains his Controller, Therapist, Messiah and Eco-leadership discourses, but has expanded the last to distinguish between ethical and commercial eco-leaders. Both books are published by Sage; from the same stable in 2018 came a second edition of Doris Schedlitzki and Gareth Edwards’ Studying Leadership: Traditional and Critical Approaches and a third edition of Brad Jackson and the late Ken Parry’s A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Leadership.

Tim Harle

#Book review#Leadership#Leadership books

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