Allender, D. B. Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness. WaterBrook, Colorado Springs. 2006. 206 pages.
I do not usually go for leadership books. All too often I find them disappointingly strategic and measured by shallow definitions of success and power. They leave me wondering if there is a place for the humble and sacrificial message of Jesus when it comes to leading others.
Leading with a Limp, however, recently caught my eye. I related to the title and, rightly, surmised that this was a leader whose style and priorities were influenced by the apostle Paul’s ‘…when I am weak, then I am strong’.
Dan Allender, founder of Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, has written a book on leadership that does more than seek to maximise a leader’s strengths and minimise weakness. His thesis is that leadership requires an understanding of ourselves that – at the very least – centralises our failures and weaknesses. In the introduction, Allender writes: 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’ (p 2).
This is not about covering weakness, but about finding the courage to expose it.
Along the way Allender addresses the cost of leadership, the gift of failure, the dangers of both complexity and simplicity, the reality of betrayal, loneliness, disillusionment and hope, character, and maturity. Each of these is related to the fact that leaders are best when they are open to the reality of our own inadequacy. Allender reminds the reader on numerous occasions that the leader is most accurately considered to be an organisation’s ‘chief sinner’.
This approach, of course, is not without risk. Admitting failure and weakness gives ammunition to those who would choose to utilise it. Our failures are not secret and confessing them both demolishes and creates power. Such power can be abused and used by others. There is no claim here that this is an easy road.
But it is a right, accurate, honest, and freeing road. And this not only for the leader, but also for those who are being led. Honest leaders inspire honest followers.
Leading with a Limp is packed with personal story and heartfelt admission. It is readable, accessible, and, more importantly, transformational for both leaders and communities. I highly recommend it for anyone who leads and influences others (and, of course, that is most of us!).