Purpose of the Book
Malphurs recognized that many today are taking about the importance of leaders and leadership, but few have adequately marked out what leadership is and what leaders do. Further complicating the issue is the distinction between secular and sacred leaders. Thus, in the eight chapters of Being Leaders, Malphurs provided eight characteristics that comprise his definition of an authentic Christian leader in today's world. Malphurs addressed the topic of Christian leadership from a biblical perspective informed and clarified by his professional research. Malphurs further hoped that by offering his opinions he would provoke Christian leaders to thoughtfully consider their own definition and philosophy of leadership.
Organization and Content
Malphurs began by clarifying his definition of a Christian leader and Christian leadership. Specifically, "Christian leaders are servants with the credibility and capabilities to influence people in a particular context to pursue their God-given direction" (10). Similarly, "Christian leadership is the process whereby servants use their credibility and capability to influence people in a particular context to pursue their God-given direction" (10). Malphurs's definitions may lack in pithiness, but they are strong in substance. The flow of the book fleshes out his definitions.
In chapter 1, Malphur's discussed his eight characteristics of Christian leadership and how those characteristics were evident in first-century Christian leaders. A Christian leader is fundamentally a committed follower of Jesus Christ, guided and empowered by God, serving God's purposes in the church, and doing it all with a Christ-like character and attitude.
In chapter 2, Malphurs examined the role of leaders (specifically pastoral leader) as shepherd and servant. Four core values make up a servant leader's heart: humility, service, others-centered, and love. As a servant, the leader equips members to pursue their God-given purposes. Chapter 3 addressed the leader's need for credibility and trustworthiness. Malphurs offered eight ingredients that build leadership credibility and five steps for regaining lost credibility. Chapter 4 dealt with the leader's capabilities. The leader's capabilities are "his or her God-given and God-directed special abilities for ministry" (73). They include the leader's spiritual and natural giftedness, passions, temperament, knowledge, skills, and emotions. Malphurs asserted that leaders are both born and made. Given the right context a "born leader" or "made leader" can accomplish God's purposes (75).
Leadership is about influence. In chapter 5, Malphurs examined the varied ways leaders influence other to follow. Malphurs stated, "Every leader has a style of influence that has an impact on people, so it's important that leaders correctly perceive how they influence their followers" (93). Thanks to the Leadership Style Inventory (appendix M), this reviewer realizes his predominant style is "analytical." The analytical style does not appeal to some followers; therefore understanding followers and their motivations is an essential skill (chapter 6). Malphurs warned would-be leaders to get used to the fact that some people will never be good followers, or else get another job (129).
Chapters 7 and 8 focused on the leader's context and task. Malphurs opined that the leader's context is one of the most neglected areas of leadership (132). A great leader in one ministry context would not be as great (and can even fail) in a different context. Leaders, therefore, need a firm understanding of their leadership philosophy and the sensitivities of those led. Any incompatibilities require adjustment from the leader or the context so the task of leadership can remain unhindered. The task of ministry leadership, according to Malphurs, is to "influence the followers to pursue their God-give direction" (158). Christian leadership is about helping followers fulfill God's purposes, not the leader's purposes.
Malphurs achieved his two-fold purpose. He articulated and clarified a working definition of Christian leaders and leadership. Second, the reader is provoked to wrestle with Malphurs's concepts for the purpose of understanding his or her own philosophy of leadership. Malphurs's weakness is that any definition of leaders and leadership is self-limiting. By saying what it is (when other leadership theorists struggle with the topic) he excludes other potential or unrecognized aspects of leadership. Malphurs also was given to enumerating "elements," "principles," and "categories" for his main and sub points. Again, by doing so, Malphurs excludes other possible elements, principles, or categories.
The appendices provided helpful tools and insights for Christian leaders, especially pastors. The most salient point Malphurs made appeared in appendix C ("Is Pastoral Care the Primary Role of the Pastor"). He stated that the primary job of a shepherd is not just to love, but to lead (176). He refuted the popular notion that being a shepherd of God's people implies focusing on the ministry of pastoral care. While pastoral care should not be neglected, the biblical truth is that shepherds primarily lead. The Leadership Style Inventory (appendix M) was very beneficial in helping this reviewer understand his style.