HabRedi 08-08-118 

Rediscovering the Soul of Leadership

Inner disciplines for the effective leader


Eugene B. Habecker

Zondervan, 1996, 285 pp., ISBN 0-9740758-4-1





Eugene Habecker, the 30th President of Taylor University, previously served as president of the American Bible Society and Huntington University.  He has also written The Other Side of Leadership and Leading with a Follower's Heart (1990).  Of all the books I've read on leadership this one has the broadest scope.  Habecker relies heavily on leadership authors, particularly John Gardner.  His primary contribution is integrating Scriptural principles and examples with what others have said about leadership.  He also talks about the importance of leaders being followers.


This book applies equally to fathers, church leaders, businessmen, pastors, or executives.  It defines leadership from God's perspective. 


The first challenge facing leaders is "how to be," not "how to do." (15)  "Unless leaders pay as much time dealing with biblical claims and models as they do with other organizational literature, leadership will move independent of the necessity of being in tune and in touch with the Holy Spirit of God." (16)


Four characteristics of a negative leader: selfish ambition, lack of caring, brutality, inability to unify. (20)


Leaders must both lead and follow "by

      Submitting their ideas and plans to the review and input of their followers;

      Actively learning from their followers;

      Strongly committing themselves to the welfare of their followers." (22)


"Leaders do not normally create motivation out of thin air.  They unlock or channel existing motives.  It is for these reasons, for example, that a leader must attend to the goals, dreams, and needs of the people being led." (28)


Three kinds of power: physical power, material power, and symbolic power. (37) Power "is simply the capacity to bring about certain intended consequences in the behavior of others." (38)  Power must be submitted to the lordship of Christ, using it for God-honoring ends. (39)


"Authority is having not only the power (might), but the right to affect one's purpose.  Power is often maintained by naked force; authority springs from a moral foundation." (40, quoting Charles Colson)


"Trust in an organization is more important to its functioning than is either authority or power." (42)


"According to Gardner, 'One of the most important prerequisites for trust in a leader is steadiness.'  By steadiness, Gardner means predictability.  ….another important element…is fairness: 'fairness when the issues are being openly adjudicated but, equally important, fairness in the back room." (45)


"The future belongs to the learning, not the learned." How do you stay on the cutting-edge? (53)  "Sustained quiet time for reflection outside the office helps retain perspective…." (54) 


Sexual sin in not always premeditated.  It often results from the frequency of contact and time spent together on the job.  (71)  God's Word is clear: don't do it. (72) 


Dissatisfaction is a source of motivation.  Value and promote a culture of creative dissatisfaction, but not complaining. (81)


How to cope with the burden of leadership.  Trust the Lord with all your heart.  Share your burdens with others, perhaps in an accountability group.  Don't carry burdens that don't belong to you.  Write down your burdens.  Be prepared to walk away; i.e. move on to a different mental landscape.


The sabbath contributes to personal renewal.  Occasional significant periods of time, whether one month or several, away from the regular work habit, schedule, and routine can play a significant part in personal renewal.  (99) 


What are the benchmarks for excellence?  "Holy shoddy is still shoddy." (106, quoting Elton Trueblood)


"Success bases our worth on a comparison with others.  Excellence gauges our value by measuring us against our own potential.  Success grants its rewards to the few but is the dream of the multitudes.  Excellence is available to all living beings but is accepted by the few.  Success focuses its attention on the external--becoming the tastemaker for the insatiable appetites of the…consumer.  Excellence beams its spotlight on the internal spirit.  Success encourages expedience and compromise, which prompts us to treat people as means to our ends.  Excellence cultivates principles and consistency…." (108, quoting Jon Johnston)


Leaders must pursue excellence in preparation, in Christian character, in organizational structure and processes, and in organizational vision.  (111-113)


"Few persons who hold positions of authority will see subordinates become followers if in fact the people refuse to confirm one's leadership."  "Further, this confirmation must be ongoing for leadership to be effective." (116)


"Leadership is not tidy.  Decisions are made and then reversed.  Misunderstandings are frequent, inconsistency inevitable.  Most of the time things are out of hand.  No leader enjoys that reality, but every leader knows it." (118, quoting John Gardner)


The emphasis on being a follower has faded out of our culture.  I have rarely seen any kind of conference on followership even though most of us need training in it.  (125)


"Leaders are almost never as much in charge as they are pictured to be, followers almost never are as submissive as one might imagine."  "Followers have about as much influence on their leaders as their leaders have on them.  Leaders cannot maintain authority…unless followers are prepared to believe in that authority.  In a sense, leadership is conferred by followers." "Good constituents produce good leaders.  They not only select good ones, they make them better by holding them so standards of performance." (138, quoting John Gardner)


Followers like to be treated with consideration, to have their say, to exercise their initiative.  But in some situations followers want prompt and clear decisions and to close ranks around the leaders.  Thus leaders must adapt their style. (129)


Dayton and Engstrom gave a list of follower characteristics: commitment, understanding, loyalty, communication, competence, promise keeping, participation, getting along, and sacrifice. (130)


The failure of leaders must be in some way connected to the failure of followers.  Followers fail in three ways: noninvolvement (apathy, passivity, cynicism, etc.), self-deception (unwilling to face facts), and lack of cohesion. (132)


"If the follower cannot become either a contented subordinate or is not willing to work for change in a proper manner, then I would argue that such an individual should leave the organization and go somewhere else…" (133)


Confrontation means to look at an issue without a vested interested in the outcome, looking out for the best interests of others.  It is important for leaders to create an environment wherein both leader and followers expect to be confronted.  Scripture is clear that we must accept correction.  (140-41)


Chapter 14 is on forgiveness.  Chapter 15 is on Compensation, Transitions, and Vulnerability.  Chapter 16 is a good provocative chapter on how much growth is enough.  And the list of topics continues on. 



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