Monday, November 21, 2016

BookPastor >> "Rare Leadership" (Marcus Warner and E. James Wilder)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 5th, 2016.


TITLE: Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits For Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead
AUTHOR: Marcus Warner and E. James Wilder
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (240 pages).

Another book on leadership? How rare is "rare?" Is there some new thing that we do not know? These questions may be on the minds of some readers who find the words, "leadership" more and more jaded these days. It has been said that most 'new' ideas are not really new, just a new rehash of some old idea. While the idea is not new, the book reminds us of the important traits of leadership. Yet, it is important enough to merit a reminder because of three reasons. Leadership is lacking in many areas; Leadership is always needed in all areas. Leadership is also constantly renewed. What may have piqued some readers is the use of the word 'rare.' The word "RARE" here is used more as an acronym rather than an adjective. It is the conviction of the authors that four "uncommon habits" are related to emotional intelligence, which in turn will draw out the best in people through a "dramatic increase in trust, joy, and engagement."
  • R - Return to Joy (gladness of togetherness)
  • A - Act like yourself (identity)
  • R - Remain Relational (belonging)
  • E - Endure Hardship (let hard times unite the people)

Just like how the authors have been energized by books such as "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," "Getting Things Done," and "The Power of Full Engagement," the authors pay it forward by crystallizing their years of experience in working with leaders, churches, and the latest science in brain research. There are four habits that arise out of a cultivation of the "fast-tracked" brain hemisphere.

The first habit is RETURN TO JOY, which the authors call the "ultimate jet fuel" for leadership. This one characteristic counters effectively the "Big Six" negative emotions such as anger, disgust, fear, hopeless despair, sadness, and shame. One whole chapter is allocated to this leadership at the speed of joy. Any form of leadership that neglects joy will rapidly descend into forms of management. Looking at the sciences of a brain, where there is a fast track (right side) and a slow-track (left side), the authors note that the central issue of identity is core to the ability to think about other things. Develop good habits to the point that even in tough times, the "fast track" segment will maintain its course. The fast track system has to with one's identity, one's motivation, and one's engagement with others. The slow track system of problem solving, strategizing, and planning work will usually follow after the fast track pace. One example is the way some church leaders are dealing with the problem of young people leaving the Church. The slow-track mind that kicks into action almost always addresses the programs, the activities, and the search for a solution to the problem. The fast track methods focuses on the relational aspect of the problem. It leads to being able to verbalize the relationship in a constructive manner. RARE leaders will build relationships first rather than solve problems. This key idea alone is worth the price of the book. It may also save your existing work situation.  In fact, leaders who do not have emotional maturity will lead the organization toward catastrophic circumstances. This is not helped by the strategies of most organizations that program or strategize their work primarily based on fear rather than faith. Such leaders are called "sandbox leaders" who in trying to protect their own little sandboxes, hide their own weaknesses and attack other people's weaknesses. Leadership in joy is something that will inspire others to imitate. It comes out of a strong sense of identity. It is rooted in Immanuel, Christ with us.

The second is to ACT like our true selves. There is no substitute for authenticity. There is also an infectious element of leaders doing their best and in turn helping others in the team do their best. If leaders have lost desire to lead well, the team members can sense it and will behave the same way. Now, this true selves is not just the commonly used "be yourself" kind of a phrase. It is one that is transformed in Christ. Our transformed selves will in turn see the Jesus and the goodness in other people. Such a leader will always protect the flock like the good shepherd. Leaders who bullies or abuses the weak are "predators." Leaders who flee or play dead in the face of hardships are called "possums." Such leaders disappear when most needed. The reason why we fail to act like our true selves is because some of us have been wearing masks for too long. Others encounter triggers that automatically shut themselves down. The way forward is the trip-I model: Imitation to pray like a lioness; Immanuel prayer that relates to how God is speaking to us; and Identity groups for others to remind ourselves who we are.

The third habit is to REMAIN RELATIONAL, and move from task-oriented toward more relational oriented. The relationship is almost always more important than the problem itself. In remaining relational, we must keep relationship on the bigger platform than problem solving. This is done with the CAKE: Curiosity about what matters to the person; Appreciation for the person; Kindness in sharing joy; and relationship Envelope the conversation, that includes the problem to be discussed. Develop habits that connect with people.

The fourth habit has a lot to do with perseverance and the ENDURANCE needed when hard times come. While no one likes to suffer, we know that tough times will come one way or the other. During such times, we need spiritual fathers, mothers, and elders, for encouragement. The Life Model's Five Levels of Emotional Maturity enables one to cultivate the endurance needed. This model of care can be very practical.
  1. Infant-Level Maturity
  2. Child-Level Maturity
  3. Adult-Level Maturity
  4. Parent-Level Maturity
  5. Elder Level Maturity
The higher the level of maturity, the more able one is to deal with hardship.

So What?

I must say that this book pleasantly surprises me. Although it is a book about leadership, it deals with an aspect of leadership that goes beyond the superficial layers of activities, techniques, and strategies. The word "rare" carries multiple meanings. It is used as an acronym for the four habits to be cultivated to be a good leaders. It can be used as a word to describe the rarity of people who are able to lead from the inside out, from the authentic self. It can also be seen as our core being. Just like "rare steak," a leadership style that is most natural will be most helpful for the organization. Let me offer three thoughts with regard to this book. First, there are many memorable models to learn from. These models come with catchy acronyms and enables readers to understand the various components of leadership. Second, this book touches on a core part of a leader: Identity. This is something which is often elusive because people are often promoted on the basis of what they do instead of their identity. This leads to lots of emphasis on activities, programs, and other visible displays of one's ability. By going back to the roots of identity, we learn about leadership as real people. Third, the part on brain science is most fascinating. Ideas are good. Concepts are nice. Understanding how a person ticks, gives us an insider look about the motivation behind the ideas and concepts.

This is going to be one of my favourite books on leadership.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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