Leadership on the Line

My latest reading ‘feat’ has been ‘Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading’ (2002) by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, two leaders in public policy at that school in Cambridge, Mass.:)

I was suggested this book after attending a conference on ‘Congregational Transformation’ last fall in Ft. Worth, Texas. Now, the book did not necessarily change my life, but it certainly was a refreshing look at leadership, especially with eyes outside of a direct ministry context. Heifetz and Linsky have worked mostly in politics and civil structures, so while they certainly take the opportunity to apply some of the stories to a religious perspective (mostly Jewish), they spend most their time discussing issues that relate to ALL leaders, no matter how big or small a job.

Many of the lessons and thoughts are not ground-breaking, but all of them are certainly worth contemplating. What I find in particular after reading many books on the same topic today is that the authors are still using most of Heifetz and Linsky’s principles…so one way or another, you’ll hear about it:).

Leadership is something that we all encounter in some way or another on a daily basis. My job, and ministry in particular, deals a lot with this topic, especially because of the nature of ‘church work’ as it is. In church, we’re not just talking about ‘volunteers’ that are often the unspoken pain in the butt that many organizations that need such people aren’t willing to mention:). In many cases people who work with volunteers are faced with individuals and families who are living with entitlement issues, emotional baggage, people trying to live out their unrealized dreams through their children, people seeking power in a place where this may be the only control they might have during the entire day. Don’t forget the staffing issues: power struggles, contempt, micro-managing, dishonesty…and smiling ‘good morning’ every time you walk in the office:). On top of this, add church. Now you have the usual volunteer and staffing issues, plus you put one of the most personal issues IN THE WORLD for people to interact with…a kettle pot of theology, injustice, tradition, emotional abuse…and praise:).

So yes, when it comes to ministry, I’ll take all the help I can get. And ‘Leadership on the Line’ is a GREAT read for someone who interested in the basics of proven strategies for maintaining sanity…and ultimately identity in the world of leadership.



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