Tag Archives | leadership

Ethical Leadership | Walter Earl Fluker

The cover of Fluker's Ethical LeadershipEthical Leadership was written to an America in crisis. In 2009, the date of publication, Walter Earl Fluker lamented a nation involved in “two costly wars; struggling with financial crisis precipitated by unscrupulous ethical practices on Wall Street; recovering from a presidential campaign that degenerated into character assassination based on race, religion, and unresolved cultural wars” (vii). The following years have only seen the issues grow more severe. We are in desperate need of ethical leadership.

Ethical leadership is the successful navigation of two worlds: lifeworlds and systemworlds.

“Lifeworlds” refers to the commonplace, everyday traffic of life where people meet and greet one another, where common values and presuppositions about order and the world are held. “Systemworlds” refers to the vast, often impersonal bureaucratic systems dominated by money and power (economics and politics and the various structures of communications and technology), which are frequently at odds with the pedestrian traffic of lifeworlds. (7)

A leader navigates the intersection of these two worlds through three ethical practices which have corresponding dimensions (viii) and are each marked by three virtues (130):

  1. Character  is the personal realm marked by integrity, empathy, and hope.
  2. Civility is the societal realm marked by reverence, respect, and recognition.
  3. Community is the spiritual realm marked by courage, justice, and compassion.

This three-times-three matrix forms “The Ethical Leadership ModelTM” which Fluker fleshes out by drawing on the work of Howard Washington Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr. along with a variety of voices from the black church.

On the positive side, Ethical Leadership is a thoughtful elucidation of many key virtues. Fluker’s selection and categorization was often thought provoking. You might expect reverence to be a spiritual virtue, but he explains it with respect to civility. Conversely, he explains the spiritual value of courage where I would have assumed it to be a personal virtue.

Unfortunately, two features took away from the value of the book. First, the selection and categorization of virtues seemed arbitrary. It is uncertain why he chose some virtues and ignored others. Second, his writing style didn’t suit the subject matter. He wrote about these academic issues like a preacher would preach. There were few concise sentences. If one term was sufficient, two were better, and three were preferred. This style undermined clarity and added (unnecessarily) to the length of the book.

The “The Ethical Leadership ModelTM” developed by Fluker is still a timely message, but it would be better experienced in a live conference than a book.


Fluker, Walter Earl. Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility, and Community. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Sticky Teams | Larry Osborne

The cover of Osborne's Sticky TeamsLarry Osborne is a proven commodity. He has pastored all different sizes and styles of churches including North Coast Church in San Diego. If you’re going to read a book on leadership, you might as well read someone who has been through it all.

Sticky Teams is a highly practical easy-to-read book on developing the unity of your church’s leadership team. The chapters are written in such a casual conversational tone you feel like you’re in Osborne’s office—his mistakes and successes are in full view. The book is surprisingly comprehensive as well. Osborne begins by examining the elements of team unity and doesn’t stop until he gets to finances.

(Regarding finances, my philosophy of ministry is quite different from Osborne. Even so, his words made me question and think through why I do what I do.)

While Osborne has experience in all sizes of churches, this book is (naturally) skewed toward the larger church that has a bigger team to bring together. Leaders of any sized team, however, would do well to think through Osborne’s ministry life and learn.

—Larry Osborne, Sticky Teams (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010).

A Work of Heart | Reggie McNeal

Once again I’m forced to write a review of a Christian leadership book and once again, I’m of two minds.

If the idea of delving into scripture to mine leadership qualities doesn’t bother you, then this book is one of the best that I’ve read.

McNeal begins by examining the lives of Moses, David, Paul, and Jesus to see how leadership qualities are evident in their lives. McNeal rightly emphasizes the importance heart-formation through remaining close to God and allowing him to change you.

In the second half of the book, McNeal examines six areas where the leader’s qualities are worked out:

  1. Culture
  2. Call
  3. Community
  4. Communion
  5. Conflict
  6. Commonplace

I was privileged to read this book through with a Bible College student in a mentoring relationship. There was always plenty of material and insights to discuss.

Here are a few of my problems with leadership books in general. The Bible doesn’t speak about leadership—shepherding and servanthood are the key metaphors.

Furthermore, the idea that there is a separate class of people who operate on a special “leadership” level seems foreign to the thrust of the New Testament. Jesus’ disciples didn’t look like people with high-level leadership qualities. They became effective once they were empowered by the Spirit.

We should examine what we mean by “leadership qualities,” too. Don’t we mean the sort of personal characteristics that make people successful in the business world today? What right do we have to dive anachronistically through scripture in an attempt to uncover these 21st century values?

On a hermentutical level, why do we assume that the personal qualities of people like Moses and David are qualities we should emulate? Scripture is the story of how God used these people—not how they were skilled enough to be used.

There you have it. If you enjoy the “christian leadership” genre, this is one of the best on the topic. If you share my reservations, leave this book on the shelf.

Everyone Communicates Few Connect | John C. Maxwell

Maxwell’s latest leadership book offers readers five principles and five practices to help them connect with the people they’re speaking with. At the end of each chapter, he takes time to apply the principle/practice to a one-on-one, small group, and public speaking setting.

The most interesting idea behind book was his crowd-sourcing technique. He took a page out of the wiki world and posted each chapter online to grab blog comment data which he worked into the final manuscript. The people on the cover all contributed to the book. There’s also a comprehensive 4 page small-font list at the end.

That’s where the interesting ends.

If you’ve read a Maxwell book before, you know what to expect. Each page contains one or two pithy headings followed by a string of quotes that was sourced by his ghostwriter. Maxwell is proud of these quotes: “I love quotations. I believe, as British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, ‘The wisdom of the wise and the experiences of the ages may be preserved by quotations’.” Now I love a good quote (thus my series of Weekend Wisdom posts) but when your entire book based on strings of quotes, the knockout power of a good saying degenerates into a flurry of uneventful jabs.

If you’ve never read a Maxwell book, give him a try. This is as good as any of them. If you’ve read him before, there’s nothing new here.

“No one can connect with everybody. It doesn’t matter how hard you work at it. Though I strive to be an effective communicator, I know there are people I leave cold when I talk.” Too true.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free as a member of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program.

They Smell Like Sheep | Lynn Anderson

I’ve unintentionally (and unfortunately) discovered the single greatest reason to shop in a physical bookstore rather than online. You can quickly see whether or not a book has pulled-out and enlarged quotes in the sidebar—and avoid wasting your time.

I bought this book for a couple reasons:

  1. Some blog I read recommended it—if only I could remember which blog that was . . .
  2. I’m a new pastor and thought it would be good to supplement my understanding of pastoral theology.

The main idea of the book is theologically sound and quite compelling: pastors need to stop acting like CEOs and recover a biblical model of shepherding. That’s where the goodness ended. I gave the first chapter the benefit of the doubt, but I quickly laid down my underlining pencil when I realized that there wasn’t any meat here for me.

If you want a better grasp of pastoral theology, read any (or all) of Eugene Peterson’s books on the topic instead:

  • Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity
  • Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness
  • Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work
  • The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction

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