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Archives / 2010 / April


Book review: The Three Tasks of Leadership: Worldly Wisdom for Pastoral Leaders

Stanley E. Patterson


Defining “leadership” is a daunting challenge. Max DePree approached it via the responsibilities of a leader: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.”1 Upon this definition, Jacobsen structures this volume. Most of the contributors come from the faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary. The essays in the first section address the function of the leader in defining reality; the essays in the second focus on the servant as leader. The final segment is dedicated to the leader who says, “Thank you,” thereby recognizing the interdependent nature of leadership as a process.

Jacobsen introduces the volume by establishing the role of the pastor as leader. All of the functions of the pastor—preaching, administering, developing, and praying—serve the leadership contribution of the pastor to congregation, church, community, and beyond. He characterizes DePree as one who bridges the distance between leadership in the business context and leadership in the unique environment of the church.

The emphasis of the modern period has been on the leader, whereas the postmodern emphasis resides upon the relationship between leader and follower. Issues of integrity, modeling, recognizing the leadership contribution of each member of the community, the responsibility of mentoring to develop followers into leaders—all contribute to a refreshing view of the leaders as stewards of those entrusted to them.

Defining the reality of the world of the church requires we recognize that leadership in the business context cannot simply be transferred to the freely associated context of the church. This book provides a healthy distinction between the business concept of a leader and the realities that a spiritual leader must face in the church where control structures that govern behavior in the former context are absent.

The emphasis is placed upon the servant as leader rather than emphasizing the more familiar servant leadership model introduced by Robert Greenleaf2 where the author treats leadership as a noun.

The servant leads from a generative platform where the growth and development of those led becomes the primary goal of the leadership process. The leader then becomes debtor to all who participate in the process of leadership and contribute to subsequent accomplishment.

Gratitude (saying thanks) is a natural outgrowth of the conscious recognition that goal accomplishment does not result in what the leader does but rather the result of the collective contribution of the community being led.

The framework of DePree’s definition restricts the book to some degree. The author moved toward the concept of a leadership model wherein every member leads in the context of their spiritual giftedness, but they never fully abandoned the positional distinction of leader-follower introduced in John 15:15. Nevertheless, this book makes an outstanding contribution to our understanding of leadership in the body of Christ.

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1 Max DePree, Leadership Is an Art (New York: Currency,
2004), 11.

2 R obert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the
Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (Indianapolis, IN:
The Robert K. Greenleaf Center, 1991).

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