Book Review: Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby

Posted: February 28, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Book reviews, Thoughts

Among the many voices talking about the topic of leadership, Henry and Richard Blackaby add their voice to the conversation and add their perspective on the challenge, role, vision and goals of the leader.  They provide a lot of helpful clarifications and insights from their time with leaders and CEO’s of companies.  Their experience, consultations, and nuggets of wisdom come through in their writing.

The overarching argument the authors are putting forth is that leaders are to move God’s people toward God’s agenda. I appreciate the emphasis on the development of people. Leadership is people work. As a leader, it is important to leverage your influence and passion for the benefit of others’ development. The biggest take away from this book is to think of leadership as a way of growing others into who God has created them to be and to place them where God needs them.

The second strength of this book is the chapter on the leader’s schedule. It is important that leaders guard their time for what is important. There is a difference between being busy and being productive. The juggling that occurs between relationships, rest, duties, and delight can easily be secured with careful planning. If a leader doesn’t keep to a disciplined schedule, they are unintentionally planning to overlook important tasks. By guarding their time, they are able to give themselves to intentional thinking, planning in order to carry out duties. The leader’s schedule can become the barometer of what they prioritize and what they don’t. It can diagnose if the leader overworks, underworks, or works unnecessarily. A calendar can balance all of the leader’s priorities while keeping a good mix of high purpose and high play.

After reading this book, I found two significant weaknesses that would keep me from recommending this book to others. One would be the dichotomization of leadership. I understand that there is a practical difference between how a Christian and non-Christian would lead an organization. However, the disagreement I have is in the secular/sacred split the author contrasts throughout the book. I believe that all humans are created to make and maintain cultures through work, structures, and technological advances. The manner by which culture and companies fulfill that may be different, but this is intrinsically woven into the fabric of who we are. The Christian leader is to work against the effects of the fall in ever sphere of life. From business meetings, staff meetings, to contracts, the Christian leader is to lead in a way that is honoring to God. To spiritualize leadership is to overlook the cultural mandate in Gen 2. Christians and non-Christians are to make, maintain, work, and keep culture through work- especially leaders.

Second, I think there is an overemphasis on the theocentric sovereignty of God that leaves out intuition, conviction, and action based on what is revealed in the Bible. Blackaby makes some categorical statements about vision, goal-oriented communication and mission statements as though they are mutually exclusive with God’s purposes. In my opinion, pithy statements that work as plumb lines can be a helpful way of getting God’s people onto God’s agenda.

On the one hand I agree with his premise that leaders ought to lead people to God’s purposes.  However, I disagree about how to get there.  The authors propose vision and mission statements as an either or. In reality, they are not to be pitted against each other and can work together. A wise leader will gain his vision, mission, and goals from God while clearly communicating through easily transferrable statements.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the encouragement to carefully plan out my time in a way that is congruent with my roles.  The more time that is carved out to think, plan, and strategize, the more I am able to move people in the direction that would be most fruitful. Although I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, I think it is a needed word for many in the business world.

  1. wolfjawtears says:

    Excellent post! I’ve read about half of this book and from that I whole heartedly agree with your observations. I found that the categorical statements made it difficult to trust the logic of the book even in the areas that may be worth learning from.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s