Book Review: Sacred Rhythms

I recently noticed that I haven't been reading as many books by women as I'd like. I try to make sure I'm reading a broad swath of authors: men and women, across ethnic groups, from various points in history. Missing out on women's voices always comes at a huge cost.

Ruth Haley Barton is one of the most insightful leaders in the arena of spiritual leadership. Sacred Rhythms represents some of her best work to mentor leaders in the art of spiritual transformation.

She walks us through 7 spiritual disciplines that God uses in our lives to produce spiritual transformation: solitude, lectio divina, prayer, bodily awareness, self-examination, discernment, and sabbath. She also provides a framework for spiritual transformation and practical guidance for arranging your life.

At the core of her framework is this idea:
"I cannot transform myself ... What I can do is create the conditions in which spiritual transformation can take place, by developing and maintaining a rhythm of spiritual practices that keep me open and available to God."
The chapter on bodily awareness - titled Honoring the Body: Flesh-and-Blood Spirituality - was the newest and most challenging for me. Barton challenges us to walk the line between denigration and objectification and shows how God will meet us in the midst of it.

This is a great book ... worth a slow read and intentional application.

Two models of leadership

I'm sure there are more than two models of leadership. But in the past week or so, two models keep coming up around me in conversations. And I find myself being drawn to each of them.

The Genius with a Thousand Helpers

Jim Collins describes this model of leadership in his book Good to Great. And the title gives you a pretty good picture of what leadership looks like in this model.

The Genius knows exactly what needs to be done and issues orders to the Helpers. The Helpers do tasks and execute the Genius' plans. This model of leadership works to free "the leader" from menial tasks to focus on what's most important for the organization/mission/vision.

The Genius with a Thousand Helpers is remarkable in its efficiency. Everything comes from one mind and, if the Genius is actually a genius, everything runs smoothly. This sounds so attractive.

But it's hard to picture the Genius washing the feet of those Helpers.

The Servant Leader

Robert Greenleaf wrote about this model of leadership in his essay "The Servant as Leader." The core identity of the leader is that of a servant. The Servant Leader is a servant before he or she is a leader. Leadership emerges as a means of service.

In this model, the leader looks for opportunities to serve. The menial work, the dirty work, the grinding work gets done by the leader to free up the rest of the organization to pursue their shared mission.

This model of leadership is particularly meaningful in organizations where most of the folks who are engaged in the work are volunteers (for ex. churches and campus ministries). Leaders who only leave grunt work for volunteers often struggle to motivate and retain volunteers. Taking care of admin, purchasing and the like can free up volunteers to do life-giving work that attracted them to the mission in the first place.

Choosing a style

I'm so frequently tempted to throw the Genius with a Thousand Helpers model into the trash can. But there are times when this model is best for the mission and organization. As I've been thinking about it recently, I think that it would be fair to say that the default model of the Christian leader is The Servant Leader and that the Genius with a Thousand Helpers model occasionally comes into play on the short-term in order to serve the people you've been called to serve.

What do you think about these models?