Build Your Dream Team: Leadership Based on a Passion for People

By Candela Iglesias Chiesa
Books by Candlelight (2016)
Kindle version, 246 pages

Reviewed by SEAN DAY

Build Your Dream Team begins by having you take inventory of yourself and your organization by identifying skillsets, leadership myths, and different types and sources of effective leadership. It then transitions to the process of examining yourself as a leader and identifying what you want your leadership to look like, getting into the nuts and bolts of strategic planning, and time management as essential elements of effective leadership. Having assessed our starting point and identified our goals, Chiesa breaks down the aspects of forming an effective team, asserting that the deliberate development of a leader will yield a capable, highly functioning team or organization. To that end, she discusses the importance and nuances of communication, noting the significance of intentional listening, as well as communication challenges and how to address them, revealing the practical applications of those principles. As a vital component of effective leadership, the author also examines understanding conflict and conflict resolution, part of which includes recognizing our personal response in such situations: do we avoid, oblige, or actively seek to resolve? The final chapter of the book is a toolbox for various strategies or practices for conflict resolution, whether it be personal conflict or the leader serving as a mediator between team members.

A significant strength of Build Your Dream Team lies in the organization of the information. Though each section builds off the previous, the reader can also reference specific topics quickly and independently from other sections. Whether you’re trying to evaluate yourself as a leader or your leadership environment, or whether you want to develop yourself as a leader or develop your team, that information is easily accessible.

Also of value is the practical nature of the suggestions and tools the author offers, i.e., setting an agenda for a conversation with a colleague with whom you may have an issue to not enter into that conversation haphazardly. She also suggests strategies for resolving conflict in a step-by-step format that can be applied to virtually any problematic situation you seek to resolve.

The author broaches most chapters with personal experience in the area of leadership, making use of that experience as a unifying thread to put flesh on the conceptual material  under discussion. She also offers “clinics” in a downloadable workbook, providing the reader the opportunity to dig deeper into their personal leadership experience as they apply the models discussed in the book.

While the book is immensely useful, the author is not an expert in the topic of leadership, but a researcher and public health specialist who has brought together several others’ techniques. She, therefore, does not go as deep into the topics as one might hope. At times, the reader can be left wanting more, though the book is undoubtedly an excellent starting place. Additionally, the title of the book is somewhat misleading, suggesting that the topic of team development will be team-focused, whereas Chiesa’s approach focuses on leader development as the means of team development.

Many spiritual leaders find themselves at one point or other in ministry questioning their call or ability to fulfill that calling. Though there is no Christian or spiritual tone palpable throughout the book, the clinics utilized by the author and the recognition of specific “leadership myths” can help a spiritual leader regain confidence. She also points out that we are not as deficient as we think, writing, “You already possess and have shown leadership characteristics in one area or other of your life. Identifying these instances provides a starting platform, clarifying areas of strengths and highlighting areas of opportunity where you can focus your learning on leadership” (loc. 312).

When we can recall those occasions and transfer that success into our dealings with our parishioners, self-doubt and low self-esteem, which inhibit effective leadership, are diminished or eliminated.

Further, spiritual leaders are knowledge workers. We do not work with a tool to produce a finished product. Our business is people, and we must be able to communicate ideas effectively. Communication is a hallmark of a pastor’s work, whether it is through Bible studies, counseling, running a business meeting, or preaching. Chiesa states, “Communication is the one single issue that makes or breaks teams. Communication is one of the hardest challenges for teams and organizations, and even for many of us, as individuals in our personal lives” (loc. 1764). Her book gives very basic, yet thorough, instruction needed to draw individuals together to form a cohesive unit.

As mentioned above, the author outlines a very clear strategy for addressing conflict. When a person’s life work involves people, conflict is inevitable. Knowing how to resolve disputes is an invaluable tool to possess.

I whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone in leadership, especially to ministerial students preparing to enter pastoral ministry. I certainly wish I had had it as a resource earlier in my career. The author makes the concepts clear through personal experience and references to experts in the fields of leadership, conflict resolution and interpersonal communications, organization, and productivity, to name a few. A reader of this book will enjoy a delightful balance of readability and a wealth of information and application to the task of team building and personal development.

SEAN DAY is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in the North Bay District in Florida.

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