Saturday, August 30, 2008

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

During the long, hot summers in Texas, I often need the refreshment of a big glass of cold water. And that’s exactly what Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership offers to the leader who needs to be recharged. (Even if you don’t think you do, keep reading!)

“Strengthening the soul of our leadership is an invitation that begins, continues and ends with seeking God in the crucible of ministry.” These words from the final chapter summarize the central theme of the book. The chapters leading up to it paint a compelling picture of the fruitfulness and joy of leading from a healthy soul that is focused on God, and the risks of soul-less leadership in ministry.

Barton follows the story of Moses through chapters with titles such as “When Leaders Lose Their Souls,” “The Practice of Paying Attention,” “Living Within Limits,” “The Loneliness of Leadership,” and “Finding God’s Will Together.” She talks about her own journey, including struggles and victories. At times she challenges the reader to take stock and at other times she offers practical advice for refilling our souls. And at the end of each chapter, she offers a “practice” that will help readers to reflect on and apply the teaching they’ve just read.

I’m not one to read with a highlighter in hand, but within the first few pages I found myself thinking, “Oh, that’s good,” and marking a couple of sentences for future references. I kept going back to the highlighter as Barton kept taking me to places deep in my spirit with quotes such as:

There is real tension between what the human soul needs in order to be truly well and what life in leadership encourages and even requires.

If spiritual leadership is anything, it is the capacity to see the bush burning in the middle of our own life and having enough sense to turn aside, take off our shoes and pay attention!

Being this reliant on God for the actual outcome of things is a very edgy way to lead. We are much more accustomed to relying partly on God and partly on our own plans and thoughts if the issues at hand are really important.

As satisfying as teamwork can be, spiritual people who come together to lead churches or organizations with a spiritual purpose have a deeper calling – we are called to move beyond teamwork to spiritual community and to have our leadership emerge from that place.

At times Barton’s words were a needed wake-up call and at other times they were a source of refreshment. I’m thankful for both, and I’m sure that you will be as well if you read Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ordered it today... can't wait to read it!