Every now and then I come across a book that forces me to stop, and reflect on my current leadership style; ‘Leading with a Limp’ is one of them. Most of the time people are encouraged to lead from a place of strength. Admitting to one’s weaknesses and struggles are often seen as inappropriate in our western culture, however Allender challenges this worldview. His book ‘Leading with a Limp’ reminds us that “if you are a leader, you’re in the battle of your life,” and therefore leading from your point of weakness might just be the edge you need. Allender summarizes it as follow, “to the degree you face and name and deal with your failures as a leader, to that same extent you will create an environment conducive to growing and retaining productive and committed colleagues”.
Married with three children, Dan B. Allender is the founder of Mars Hill Graduate School, Seattle. Previously served as the president, he is a professor in counseling, a therapist in private practice, and a popular speaker. He is the author of numerous books including ‘To Be Told’, ‘How Children Raise Parents’, ‘The Healing Path’, and ‘The Wounded Heart’.
Allender touches a very unique, yet unexplored area in the world of leadership. Over the years I have met many younger leaders with huge aspirations and dreams. They have listened to many speakers and leaders sharing about their stories and achievements. However very few of them have taken the step into the unknown because they fear failure. When in discussion with them they will generally reply that they are not yet where all the great leaders are and therefore are not ready to step up in greatness. Their lack of knowledge about these leaders’ past struggles and failures causes the younger leader to be passive, thinking of themselves to be inferior because of their own failures and struggles. Allender speaks about this danger and how it can prevent people from approaching more experienced leaders with confidence, especially if they had gone through a process of failure. “And, perhaps even more dangerous, hiding failure prevents leaders from asking for and receiving the grace they most desperately need to live well, not to mention well”.
Allender continuous that every leader faces five universal challenges and encourages the reader to identify a default response to each. When in crisis, respond with courage instead of cowardice; when experiencing complexity, respond with depth instead of rigidity; when challenged with betrayal, respond with gratitude instead of narcissism; when faced with loneliness, respond with openness instead of hiding; when feeling weary, respond with hope instead of fatalism.
Most encouraging is the brutal honesty to the cost of leadership that Allender calls for. Where many leaders will shy away from their weaknesses and failures, Allender explains that “God loves reluctant leaders and, even better, He loves reluctant leaders who know they are frightened, confused, and broken. Northhouse explains in his book ‘Leadership, Theory and Practice’ how people are searching desperately for authentic leaders, leaders who are genuine and real. “In recent times, upheavals in society have energized a tremendous demand for authentic leadership”.
A personal favorite concept is found near the end of the book where Allender explains that “each of us has skills and gifts that place us primarily in one category – prophet, priest, or king”. He continues to explain the interconnectedness as the ‘king’ creates life-giving structure, the ‘priest’ creates meaningful connections, and the ‘prophet’ creates compelling vision. In a more layman term I will classify them as follow; Visionary leader, the one who envisions the way forward; Administrative leader, the one who develops the strategy on how to get there; Relational leader, the one who empowers and takes the people forward.
In closing, even though ‘Leading with a Limp’ is timely as to what’s needed in leadership today, Allender often overgeneralizes about the dangers of leaderships, for example: “Nothing comes easily, enemies outnumbers allies, and the terrain keeps shifting under your feet”. If misunderstood his view on success could be seen negatively as he describes success not as a result of hard work and faithfulness, “instead success is a token of grace to be enjoyed in the moment before the other shoe drops”.
However, it is a book I will recommend to any leader who are passionate about mentorship. A key book for leaders who are serious about and willing to be real and authentic.