Be A Better Leader: Be Genuine (suggested books)

“Be Genuine” is the first category we’re exploring in our “Be A Better Leader” series. In this series, we are looking at a variety of attributes, characteristics, and skills that are essential to effective leadership, and discussing how they are reflected in practice. In addition to this month’s topic, the list of categories also includes “Be Relational,” “Be Trustworthy,” Be Knowledgeable,” and “Be Excellent.” This month, as we look at what it means to “Be Genuine,” we will be talking about the need to be authentic, be yourself, and be an example, and today I share some thoughts on a recommended related book or two.

We both know that there are many books that speak on the topic of authenticity, the importance of leading by example, the importance of understanding yourself so that you can lead from your strengths, and why it is important for effective leaders to be genuine.  I’m simply sharing a couple of books on related topics that I have found to be insightful and valuable in my own personal leadership development.

J. Robert Clinton’s The Making of a Leader (1988, Revised 2012) is an explanation fo “Leadership Emergence Theory,” and is particularly meaningful to me because it was the theoretical basis in my own research for my doctoral dissertation.  It is a model of leadership development that originated out of research of the formation of leadership in biblical leaders and in significant historical ministry figures, and so is specifically applicable to a Christian view of leadership.  Clinton describes this theory as the concept that “all of life is used by God to develop the capacity of a leader to influence” (1988, p. 9) including internal processes, external processes, and divine processes, both formal and informal.

Leadership Emergence Theory divides the leadership formation and emergence process into six stages, or phases, over the lifetime of the leader. The first, Phase I, is called the Sovereign Foundations phase. It is in this initial stage that God providentially works with the foundational items in the life of the leader-to-be in preparation for future leadership, beginning from birth. Phase II is the Inner Life Growth phase. In this stage, the emerging leader receives both informal and formal training, and there are four predominant means through which the training takes place:  imitation modeling, informal apprenticeships, mentoring, and academic study. Phase III is the Ministry Maturing phase. In this stage, emerging leaders serve in ministry as their prime focus, and get further training, and it is also during this phase that the discovery of giftedness takes place.  The following stage, Phase IV, is the Life Maturing phase, during which the emerging leader is able to identify and begin using his combination of gifts, training, and experience (called “gift-mix”) with effectiveness and impact, and learns to develop its use to its full potential. The pivotal stage is Phase V, the Convergence phase, in which the leader becomes most effective in his role as a leader and in his ministry, as his potential is maximized and exercised.  Unfortunately, only a few leaders ever experience this phase in their lifetime.  Even rarer is the final stage, Phase VI, or Afterglow.  This phase follows the active ministry of a leader by influencing a community based on a lifetime legacy of leadership.

In addition, Clinton identifies the essential variables and concepts that are foundationally important to understanding who we are, and knowing how/why our lives and our leadership have formed in the way that they now exist within us.  Understanding these variables and concepts in the context of the six stages of development help us to best understand ourselves and the shaping of our own leadership.  It helps to know ourselves by helping us to recognize the path of our personal leadership development story, so that we can then produce even further personal development.


Clinton, J. R. (1988, Revised 2012). The Making of a Leader. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress.

Clinton, J. R. (1989). Leadership Emergence Theory. Madison, WI: Printing Plus.


Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, is a book about vulnerability and it’s value in leadership and in relationships.

Dr. Brown begins with a discussion about scarcity, or the feeling of never having or being enough. This feeling is attributed to the behaviors of shame, comparison, and disengagement, and therefore the counter attack is vulnerability and worthiness, being willing to face risk and exposure and knowing that I am enough (which she defines as “wholeheartedness”). But these are the very behaviors that we often avoid or refuse, and the result, then, is that “the greatest casualties of a scarcity culture are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness” (p. 29).

Vulnerability is described by Brown as a place of uncertainty, risk, emotional exposure, or, being open to attack or damage. The fear and misunderstanding of that risk has produced several myths – such as “vulnerability is weakness” – that inhibit our willingness to be vulnerable. Brown explains that it is necessary, then, that we develop “shame resilience,” or the ability to identify, face, and respond to what causes us shame in order to develop vulnerability. She then describes the typical shields / masks / defenses we employ to protect our vulnerability, and presents three strategies for removing those shields

Having identified and explained vulnerability, with the obstacles that inhibit it and the means to develop it, Brown addresses the importance of recognizing the value gap – the difference between what we want to do, think, or feel, and what we actually do, think, or feel. The disengagement between these two values (between talk and walk) must be overcome, both individually and culturally. She identifies the key to change, or re-engaging, as “disruptive engagement,” which involves making it safe to fail, combatting shame, and cultivating a unity and honesty that fosters vulnerability.

The essence of the book is the importance of being genuine. We must be genuine, and we must help others be genuine. In order to be genuine, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with people, so that they can see who we really are. This can be scary, but it’s also necessary for building trust, because it reflects authenticity. I personally believe authenticity is crucial for effective leaders, so this book may be a good resource for helping you develop along that path.

Brown, Brené (2012). Daring Greatly: How the courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Gotham Books: New York, NY.

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