Robert Banks and Bernice M. Ledbetter believe the subject of leadership to be one worth exploring, and they do so in their book much to our profit. In this short book, Banks and Ledbetter begin by presenting the overall question they want to answer: Do Christians’ core convictions shape their views and practices of leadership or are they affected by wider cultural assumptions? The book begins by exploring the many reasons for the increased interest in leadership today. The authors offer a plethora of reasons, not withholding the greatly increased pace of change, and they also set out some other factors for understanding leadership, including the comparison and contrast between a ‘leader’ and the qualities of ‘leadership’. Banks and Ledbetter take great care to ask challenging questions. This practice aids in the development of the book.
In the opening chapters they begin by defining leadership as involving a person, group, or organization who shows the way in an area of life.  The authors also provide a strong distinction between management and leadership while also showing the importance of these two roles to work together. The foundation of the writing is supported by the claims towards the importance of the study of leadership. Banks and Ledbetter continue on to explore leadership in a wider range of historical and Biblical contexts. They work from religious and Christian perspectives and work outward towards cultural influences. The authors share insight as it relates to the biblical, historical and contemporary perspectives, covering the accounts of the Apostle Paul, historical models such as the Benedictine tradition, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Pentecostal. They continue by exploring trait, contingency and transformational leadership.
Chapters three and four provide the most specific writings on the topic of leadership. In these chapters Banks and Ledbetter draw attention to the raw spiritual, theological, and religious concepts of leadership. Here the authors conduct a case study of a significant author of leadership material, Stephen Covey. It is revealed that many readers are influenced by his Mormon faith without truly understanding or discerning the undertones. This continues with an exploration of other perceived authorities on the topic of leadership. One such study is of Laura Beth Jones, an woman writer with increasing influence as it relates to leadership.
Chapter five addresses how to translate practices of leadership into individual context through the use of three basic yet important values: faithfulness, integrity, and a servant-like attitude. Exploration of these three traits is undergirder with discussion of authors such as Robert Greenleaf. He is one of many leaders who brought into popular leadership thinking the idea of ‘servant leadership’.The book closes by offering examples in the form of case-studies. These studies provide deeper insight into the foundational qualities of successful leaders over the span of several years and many different context. This offers the reader a broader view of leadership by showing its success in many different forms and context.
While reading through each chapter I was challenged to consider the conflicts I have faced that came as the result of lacking a manager to accompany my leadership. As a pastor, I am a natural leader. I tend to seek out change while searching for ways to constantly make things better and more efficient. About two years ago I was in a conflict with several of the leaders in our church. The conflict revolved around our misunderstanding of each others approach and roles in leadership.
As an proponent of change, I was offended by their seeming lack of faith in pursuing a broader reach in ministry and our effectiveness in the community. As managers, they were more apt to move slowly and could only visualize the problems that would need to be addressed in order to achieve the vision that was laid forth by me. After studying the viewpoints of Banks and Ledbetter I can now see how we could have easily been on the same page and shared the same goal while simply looking from distinct perspectives.
I have now began to wonder how many other relationships could have been mended by simply understanding the role that each party played. I have a tendency to assume that others will automatically view things in the same way that I have. This has often led to great disappointment or great feelings of being misunderstood. In this way my passion can easily become focused on the wrong thing and people could easily become the target of that passion.
While the book does a great job of exploring the topic of leadership, because of the breadth and depth of the topic many questions remain. Taking into account the authors definitions of managers and leaders, how do the two roles successfully communicate their intentions to one another? It is very possible for the two roles to coexist with proper acknowledgment of one another. How do the two operate together effectively without disrespecting or disregarding the importance of each role. Also, how does one know which leadership style works best in a given context? Does it take an extended period of trial and error to discover the proper styles? How do followers or even managers respond to a constantly changing leadership style?
This book could have been greatly improved with a more comprehensive study of the specified leadership topics. The writing feels much like a generic overview of very important topics. While well written and engaging, I am left wanting as it relates to determining how to not only incorporate the leadership styles but also choose the style that is most fitting. This book feels like a movie that ended too soon. Leaving readers wondering what do with the brief information provided.
With a fresh view of the information given by Banks and Ledbetter, I now have the information needed to implement a healthier leadership style that includes a clarity of my role as an agent of change. This plan is broken into two distinct parts. First, to properly identify the contexts that guide the view of leadership within the leadership team of the church that I pastor. What types of leaders have they encountered in the past? Are they open to change or resistant to it? This objective will be accomplished through the scheduling of one on one meetings with each leader.
These meeting will allow me the opportunity to engage each leader in a meaningful conversation about the leadership styles they are most comfortable with. With this information I will be equipped to better serve these leaders by communicating with them in a way that they are most likely to receive. This is based upon Banks and Ledbetters observation of the broad idea of leadership many people carry.
Secondly, I will create a comprehensive list of the core beliefs that will guide our leadership team. For those considering becoming parts of our church, how do they know the values that determine our decision making as leaders? This list will answer that question. It will become the core values for current and even future leaders. This comprehensive list will incorporate biblical teachings from Jesus as well as the Apostle Paul’s qualifications from 1 Peter and the epistles to Timothy. By outlining these core values, we create accountability, an attribute that could also allow for congregants and members alike to feel more comfortable engaging with the vision of our church by being secure in the direction and the values that guide us.
Banks, Robert and Ledbetter, Bernice “Reviewing Leadership: A Chriatian Evaluation of Current Approaches”, Grand Rapids, MI Baker Publishing Group 2004