The 4 Dimensions Of Extraordinary Leadership: The Power Of Leading From Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, by Jenni Catron
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
One of the most striking aspects of this roughly 200 page book is the fact that the author demonstrates herself to be remarkably well read, quoting books by authors like Metaxas, Covey, and Maxwell , and even publicly claiming that any great leader is a great reader as well, which the author certainly is. This book is designed to appeal to the large audience of Christian managers and business executives , the sort of large and healthy market that Maxwell used to appeal to effectively in his books when he was actually writing original books . The author strikes the right notes, quoting scripture thoughtfully and well, encouraging balance among leaders, providing examples from personal experience and observation, and speaking like the self-professed Christian leadership consultant that she is . This is not a bad thing, but those who approach this book looking for a contemporary book on leadership and management that includes biblical citations and brief commentary as opposed to the work of a theologian dealing with contemporary business practices will be pleased and pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed at its contents.
It is striking to note that the title of the book and its organizing structure spring from the language of the Shema, the commitment of practicing Jews to ethical monotheism and a full love and obedience to God above. Besides the text of this book, which introduces the need for a balanced perception of extraordinary leadership and discusses the four dimensions of leadership that need to be in balance, the heart (relational), the soul (spiritual), the mind (managerial), and one’s strength (visionary), the book also contains a personal leadership assessment to help the reader determine their strengths and weaknesses as leaders . Overall, the book takes a balanced approach between developing one’s capacity for leadership, recognizing both strengths and weaknesses that one has, and encouraging both that leaders find mentors and serve as mentors themselves in order to encourage others. Although this book is short and contains a great deal of material from other writers and thinkers, the resulting book is a skillful synthesis rather than a mere recapitulation or regurgitation of previous research.
This book, despite its generally warm and welcoming tone, is a reminder of a stark divide concerning leadership within our society and its institutions. On the one hand, the author encourages as wide as audience as possible to develop their capacity for leadership and growth across all levels of life, so that they are able to lead themselves and lead others. However, the author discusses that she herself, and many institutions of all kinds, have a certain comfort and preference for hierarchy that often hinders the development of leadership when potential is not recognized and encouraged and given the proper opportunities to flourish. The author is caught in a tension between a recognition that fear and insecurity and impatience govern the way many leaders behave and the fact that leadership is something that requires active cultivation by both the leader and by a surrounding institutional context. Though she does not focus attention on this tension, it is one that the book shimmers with, reminding us that leadership is an art and not a science, something that requires practice, something that is often messy and imperfect and complicated, largely because it deals with human beings and not automatons. The author can be praised for showing her own struggles to lead and to follow, her recognition of her own strengths and weaknesses, and the questions that keep her up at night. The wise reader will take this book as an opportunity for personal growth and reflection on how to become a better leader in their own lives, even if they have only themselves to lead in most aspects.
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 For example, the author speaks of leadership as follows on page XV of the introduction:
“What does extraordinary leadership look like? How do we become extraordinary leaders? What type of discipline is involved? What activities are necessary? What choices does one need to make? Why do people with great leadership instincts flounder?
These questions are difficult to sort out, and I know that it is a rare person who is a truly extraordinary leader. Great leadership is rare because it takes work. It takes intentionality. It requires sacrifice. It takes resolve. It involves heartaches, disappointments, and mistakes. It requires apologies. It entails a daily dose of humility. It means relentless growth and frequent failure.”
Later on, towards the end of the book, the author comments on her perfectionism on page 183 as follows:
“I’m a perfectionist by nature. I’m never satisfied with the status quo. I long for better and best, and I rarely let myself off the hook. I push myself. I beat myself up. I get impatient with my lack of growth. I grieve when I fail as a leader. I feel the weight of leadership every day. It’s a burden that I carry. It’s weighty. And honestly, sometimes it smothers me. It is difficult for me to find grace for myself. The urgency of the calling bears down on me, and I don’t feel like I have a minute to waste.”
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