Leadership in Christian Perspective – Justin Irving and Mark Strauss

Leadership in Christian Perspective Irving Strauss
Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leaders by Justin A. Irving, Mark L. Strauss
Published by Baker Academic on June 18, 2019
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction, Leadership
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This book brings the best of leadership theory and research together with biblical reflection and examples of leadership in action to offer a practical guide to Christian leaders.
Combining expertise in leadership studies and biblical studies, Justin Irving and Mark Strauss explore how leadership models have moved from autocratic and paternalistic leader-centered models toward an increased focus on followers. The authors show how contemporary theories such as transformational leadership, authentic leadership, and servant leadership take an important step toward prioritizing and empowering followers who work with leaders to accomplish organizational goals. Irving and Strauss organize their book around "nine empowering practices," making it accessible to students, church leaders, and business leaders.
Integrating solid research in leadership studies with biblical and theological reflection on the leadership ideas that are most compatible with Christian faith, this book is an important resource for all Christian students of leadership.

There are approximately a million books on Christian leadership. I know this because I’m a doctoral candidate working on a degree in pastoral leadership and I’ve had to read most of them. The truth is that most of them have their nuggets of uniqueness and wisdom but are overall the same. Leadership in Christian Perspective is one of those books, but it’s a bit more polished, a bit more readable, and has a bit more depth than the rest of the field.

This is an academic text, rather than something like John Maxwell or Ken Blanchard lay-level text, meaning that it is intended for more substantive study than just exhortation and encouragement. (And no knock on Maxwell or Blanchard, there’s a need and market for both!) Authors Irving and Strauss present nine core leadership practices focused within three primary themes:

First theme is that of authentic and purposeful leaders. They must 1) model what matters 2) engage in honest self-evaluation and 3) foster collaboration. I especially appreciated the focus on self-leadership and control with the obvious corollary that if you cannot lead yourself you will struggle to lead others.

Second theme is on understanding the priority of people. This is the heart of the servant leadership model and key to any Christian leadership theory. It’s about 1) valuing and appreciating 2) creating a place for individuality and 3) understanding relational skills. The highlight here is the focus on employee individuality, as many organizations strive for conformity in both large and small areas.

Third theme is effectiveness, which should flow out of enacting the first two themes, with a focus on 1) communicating with clarity 2) providing accountability 3) and supporting and resourcing followers/employees. This moves into the realm of practicality as leaders strive to actually lead people to action to meet a shared vision and goals.

I appreciate that although this is a book about leadership in Christian perspective, it is not about Christian leadership only. The techniques and tools discussed in the book are equally applicable to the secular realm as well, and in my opinion, probably better suited to how to lead Christianly in a secular setting. The book uses a number of vignettes that illustrates its principle in action and give the reader some idea of implementation.

Overall, Leadership in Christian Perspective is a fine work. My one criticism would be related to the book’s use of “servant leaders” without doing much to define that term. “Servant leadership” is often used as a synonym with “Christian leadership” without much concern as to if the leadership type actually aligns with the theory of servant leadership. In the book, Irving and Strauss tend toward authentic or transformational leadership theory. It’s a solid, foundational text that doesn’t go much in breaking new ground but organizes, clarifies, and presents the “old ground” in an engaging and accessible manner.