What spurs us into action? Reflections on Lamdin’s book, Finding Your Leadership Style

Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

I’ve recently been grading some student reviews of Keith Lamdin’s 2012 book, Finding Your Leadership Style: A Guide for Ministers. In spite of the sub title (a guide for ministers) I think Lamdin’s work has a wider relevance, and  thought it worth highlighting some of his key insights.

After defining leadership as ‘one humans capacity to influence another’, Lamdin suggests that three factors are usually at work before we spring into leadership action: discontent, vision and courage.

The first ingredient, discontent, is interesting as the obvious implication is that discontent is to be welcomed as a forerunner of change. Without it the status quo will continue to dominate, and little progress will be made.

Now the quibble part of me wants to push back and say that this is not always true – that some people keep pushing the boundaries of the good and deeply satisfying to make them even better. But that really is just a quibble. Realistically, most often change comes as a result of discontent.

Not that discontent alone brings change. It needs to birth a vision of better possibilities. Here is where leadership comes in. There are plenty of malcontents around, and bemoaning the present is an easy hobby to embrace. It takes visionary leadership to see how an unsatisfactory situation can be changed, or how we can grasp the opportunities inherent in even difficult situations. Vision casting needs  to take place alongside the discontent. The old saying goes that it is better to light a candle than to curse the dark – and this is exactly what is required. Instead of muttering, ‘how awful…’ we need to rise to the leadership challenge and speak the ‘why not…’  words or ask the ‘why not try this’ question, or put forward the , ‘if we did this instead’ challenge or we might be even loftier and have a Martin Luther King breakthrough ‘I have a dream…’ However we set about it, we should remember that without vision casting we will be alone. Vision sees people come on board – and when people come on board new options emerge.

Lamdin’s third ingredient is courage. Very few things that are worthwhile are achieved without some cost – and at times the cost is both high and personal. Again, it is why Lamdin suggests that this is why leadership is required. Bemoaning the present is easy… Transforming it with vision and carrying through with the courage to implement vision… that is costly, and requires a high level of leadership.

Lamdin then moves into the heart of his book (chapters 3-9) with a discussion of various leadership styles, and an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and the settings in which each is best used. He names six: the monarch, the warrior, the servant, the elder, the contemplative and the prophet, and is not neutral in the way he describes each, clearly favouring some (the last four) over others. I will leave you to read the book to see his take on each, but even if you don’t, the titles are suggestive.

The book closes with really helpful insights into the struggle of leadership and suggests constructive self care options. I found the discussion on the three psychological skins that leaders develop in response to the strains of leadership particularly helpful.

Lamdin notes that the pain of criticism and attack often sees leaders become thick skinned, impervious to the attack of others, and often disdainful of their critique. This is usually a defence mechanism but it leaves them vulnerable to missing (or prematurely dismissing) the valid (albeit sometimes painful) observations that others have.

Others are thin skinned, thrown by criticism, and constantly trying to keep everyone happy in an attempt to avoid conflict. Again, this leads to more than a few problems, and often the journey of thin skinned people in leadership is short, prematurely aborted because the pain gets too high – even though the journey might well be valid and worth fighting for.

Rather then accept that only two skin types are possible (thick or thin) Lamdin notes that healthy skin is pliable. It is open to experience and to weaving the range of experiences into the web of ones life (and leadership) story. It is flexible enough to remain open and vulnerable in some settings, while drawing lines of protection in others. It differentiates destructive attack from character building adversity and setback – and sometimes manages to turn even attack into a valuable stepping stone of growth.

Well  – what do you think? Could it be that some situation you are currently bemoaning is actually an invitation to leadership.

As always, nice chatting…

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Sounds like a book worth reading Brian.

    Discontent is an interesting “emotion” to hold as it may well be that in spite of our discontent we have to live, for a while at least, with things as they are. Sometimes it is not planting the vision that chnage will bring, but rather working in people to help them see the same vision and ‘deliver change themselves’ if you like. Depending on both the leader and the organisation that can take more or less time. So, in many instances it might be the leader’s skin flexibility that equally needs to adapt to the pressures from within the leader based on the timing, extent, and quality of change required that is causing their discomfort. That internal discomfort needs to be managed.

    Managing expectations from within and without is a great skill to learn and develop.

    How does your writing on Quiet Leadership contrast with Lamdin’s thoughts Brian?

    Blessings

    • Thanks for those thoughts Wayne. I guess when it comes to quiet leadership, it is often only significant discontent that sees quiet leaders (here in the sense of reluctant leaders) spring into action. It is seeing that something is wrong and realising that no one else is likely to act on it that sees some who would otherwise not raise their hands for leadership, accept the challenge.

  2. This looks like an interesting book, Brian. Your summary has certainly sparked my interest as I face challenges at the moment. The difficulty of leadership, I think, is not that we have to deal with challenges but that at times they seem relentless and having just dealt with one, another takes its place.
    Bringing about a vision for a different way of doing things so as to minimize the problems is very hard work and takes not just courage but perseverance.

    • Yes, I think the relentless flow of challenges can be very trying. I find it helpful to think of problems as simply par for the course, and respites from them as a special blessing rather than something we can claim as an entitlement. Strength as you face your particular ones.

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