What makes for a strong leader? I’m especially interested in that question as I train church leaders around the country in the skills of congregational intelligence, leadership smarts, and culture shifting. A recent conversation with noted pastor, James Howell, author of “Weak Enough to Lead: What the Bible tells us about Powerful Leadership,” (Abingdon 2017) gave me a brand new perspective.
Here’s a bit of our conversation.
James, how can this book help me as a leader?
Rebekah, this book won’t help you “succeed” or improve your metrics. But it will help you grow as a leader in the sense of living in close solidarity with the biblical story, and to dig deeply to discern how you as a leader are both afflicted and gifted by the kinds of brokenness you share with biblical leaders like David, Paul, Moses and so many others. I think a heightened intimacy with God and a deep immersion in the realities of Scripture may be the real stuff of authentic, faithful leadership.
James, how has knowing that the biblical story preferences leaders “weak enough to lead” impacted your own leadership and shifted your understanding of church?
Well, at 62 years of age, I’ve spent years trying to be as good a leader as possible. I’ve been told that I exhibit strength and charisma, and I’ve led by force of will. At the same time, I come from a family that’s just a disaster; I carry that stuff around. I used to think of it as an enemy to overcome, but now I see that my strength in ministry comes from that broken place. I understand human brokenness. Everybody’s got dysfunction. And it’s not all about getting better, it’s about being community together. The church is broken people being real community together.
James, what’s the main thing you want people to get from reading this book?
Rebekah, I want leaders to understand God’s ways more profoundly, and thereby not be demoralized by snazzy leaders they don’t measure up to, but buoyed by the mercy of God, the fact that throughout the Bible God uses the weak and unlikely, and the knowledge that even the greatest of leaders are sinful, flawed, foolish and broken.
Reflecting on my conversation with James, and my own imperfections, emphasizes for me the importance of self-awareness and personal spiritual growth for leaders. The kind that twelve step communities specialize in. Next week, come back to read about people who follow Jesus in a community modeled after the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
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If you’re weak enough to lead, and strong enough to know you need help, then take the next step in creating a powerful, authentic community by ordering James Howell’s book and registering today for Track 1 of a Creating a Culture of Renewal cohort. This year we’ll have groups in New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Ohio, Iowa, Western North Carolina, and Maine. This leadership development gives clergy and church leaders the skills to ultimately shift the cultures of their own congregations into the real communities of which James Howell spoke. The communities that have arisen as a result of their leaders’ engagement in the Creating a Culture of Renewal program have not only healed the broken, but thrived and grown in ministry, creating and fulfilling visions that they’d never have thought possible.