A Simple Story about the True Essence of Leadership


James Hunter

Prima Publishing, 1998, 187 pp.   ISBN 0-7615-1369-8 or


James Hunter is principal consultant of J. D. Hunter Associates, a labor relations and training consulting firm located near Detroit.  This is a story in the Ken Blanchard style.  A beleaguered leader is persuaded to take a weeklong retreat at a monastery.  There he comes under the tutelage of a former renowned leader-turned-monk who introduces him to the understanding that the qualities of a leader are the qualities of love as described in I Corinthians chapter 13. 


“Building influence with others, true leadership, is available to everyone but requires a tremendous extension of oneself.  Sadly, most of those in leadership positions shy away from the great effort required.” (28)


“You manage things, you lead people.” (28)


“Leadership: The skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good.” (28)


Power: The ability to force or coerce someone to do your will, even if they would choose not to, because of your position or your might.”  (30)

Authority: The skill of getting people to willingly do your will because of your personal influence.” (30)


“Power erodes relationships.” (32)


“When working with and getting things done through people, there will always be two dynamics involved—the task and the relationship.  It is easy for leaders to lose their balance by focusing on only one of these dynamics at the expense of the other.” (40)


“All of life is relational—with God, self, and others.”  “The truly great leaders are skilled at building healthy relationships.” (41)  The most important ingredient in a successful relationship is trust. (44-5)


“It is impossible to improve unless we change.” (54)


“The people in many organizations today are looking up the food chain, so to speak, and worrying about keeping the boss happy.  And while everyone is focusing on keeping the boss happy, who’s focusing on keeping the customer happy?” (60-1)


“Too many managers spend their careers getting in the way instead of getting the obstacles out of the way.”  “A seagull manager is one who periodically flies into the area, makes a lot of noise, dumps on people, maybe eats their lunch, and flies away.” (63)


“A leader is someone who identifies and meets the legitimate needs of their people, removes all the barriers, so they can serve the customer.  Again, to lead you must serve.” This does not mean meeting the ‘wants’ of their people, but their ‘needs.’ (64-5) Leadership is built on service. (79)


“Leadership begins with the will, which is our unique ability as human beings to align our intentions with our actions and choose our behavior.  With the proper will, we can chose to love, the verb, which is about identifying and meeting the legitimate needs, not wants, of those we lead.  When we meet the needs of others we will, by definition, be called upon to serve and even sacrifice.  When we serve and sacrifice for others, we build authority or influence....  And when we build authority with people, then we have earned the right to be called leader.” (90)

This can be diagramed as an inverted pyramid from bottom to top as Will, Love, Service and Sacrifice, Authority and Leadership.


Everyone has a religion.  “We all have some sort of beliefs about the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.  Our religion is simply our map, our paradigm, our beliefs that answer the difficult existential questions.” (93)


“All of life is relational, both vertically to God, and horizontally to our neighbor.  Each of us has to make choices about those relationships.” (93)


When Jesus speaks of love in the New Testament, he is speaking of a love of behavior and choice, not a love of feeling.  “I cannot always control how I feel about other people but I certainly am in control of how I behave toward other people.”  I can behave lovingly, be patient, honest and respectful, even if he chooses to behave poorly.  (97-8)


According to I Corinthians chapter 13, love is patience, kindness, humility, respectfulness, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, and commitment.  “This beautiful definition of agape love, also a beautiful definition for leadership today.” (99-100)


The greatest opportunity we have to pay attention to people is by actively listening to them. (104)


“Active listening requires a disciplined effort to silence all that internal conversation while we’re attempting to listen to another human being.  It requires a sacrifice, an extension of ourselves, to block out the noise and truly enter another person’s world—even for a few minutes.” (105)


“At the core of the human personality is the need to be appreciated.” (108)


“Honesty is the quality most people put at the top of their list of what they want most from their leader.  Trust, which is built by honesty, is the glue that holds relationships together.  But honesty with people is also the tough side of love and brings balance to love.  Honesty is about clarifying expectations for people, holding people accountable, being willing to give the bad news as well as the good news, giving people feedback, being consistent, predictable, and fair.  In short, our behavior must be free from deception and dedicated to the truth at all costs.” (119)


“Manipulation, by definition, is influencing people for personal benefit.” (122)


“When Jesus says to love others as we love ourselves, He is rightly assuming that we already love ourselves.  He is asking us to love others in the same way as we love ourselves.”  Although we may not always feel good about ourselves, we tend to do what is in our own best interest.  That is how we are to love others.  (128-29)


Motivation – any communication that influences choices. (144)


“If I make a commitment to love and extend myself for those I serve, and align my actions and behaviors to that commitment, positive regard for those people will follow over time.” (150)


“We can discipline ourselves to do what is unnatural until it becomes natural and a habit.  And we all know we are creatures of habit.” (163)


“Leadership is not about personality, possessions, or charisma, but all about who you are as a person.  I used to believe that leadership was about style but now I know that leadership is about substance, namely character.” (166)


“The labors of leadership and love are character issues.  Patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, respectfulness, forgiveness, honesty, commitment.  These character building blocks, or habits, must be developed and matured if we are to become successful leaders who will stand the test of time.” (167)


“Thoughts become actions, actions become habits, habits become our character, and our character becomes our destiny.” (167)


“Happiness is based upon happenings.  If good things happen then I’m happy.”  “Joy is a much deeper phenomenon....  Joy is about inner satisfaction and the conviction of knowing that you are truly aligned with the deep and unchanging principles of life.  Serving others breaks you free from the shackles of self and self-absorption that choke out the joy of living.” (178-79)  “There is great joy in leading others by meeting their legitimate needs.” (182)

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