By Samuel Chand; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson (2015); Reviewed by MARK BORRETT
Samuel Chand’s Leadership Pain is a book on leadership and its struggles and victories. But most important this is a book about experiencing and working through our pain, hurt, disappointments and betrayal as Christian leaders. As Chand states in every chapter, “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain.” This is both thought-provoking and challenging, but also it encourages us to raise our threshold of pain. The basic premise of the book is that Growth = Change, Change = Loss, Loss = Pain, and therefore, Growth = Pain.
Pain is inevitable if we are growing and moving forward in our relationship with the Lord, with others and in leadership. Our inability or unwillingness to face pain will limit our progress and hence we will be growth limited by the threshold of our pain tolerance. We will all face pain in our lives—that is inevitable. It can be self-inflicted, or often it comes through no fault of our own. We live in a fallen world. The fact is that those in leadership can and will often experience deep hurt and pain from those they try to serve. But the Lord can use our pain, our hurts, our betrayals and our disappointments, if we will let Him, for His kingdom, for His glory and for whatever is next. That is what this book is all about!
Each chapter of Leadership Pain starts with actual accounts of real-life leadership crises, difficulties, and challenges. They are raw and honest; they describe dramatic life-changing events for the affected pastors or leaders. They are indeed deep waters to consider, to identify with and take encouragement from. There are invaluable lessons for those on the rollercoaster of Christian leadership— some lessons of success but mostly of the journey of pain, failure, setbacks, struggles, depression, and the deep, deep learnings and compassion that resulted. Comfort received from the Lord that can overflow to others in understanding and compassion in whatever is next in life.
Chand then builds off of these accounts to draw out some key aspects of hurt and leadership in each chapter. These include numerous timeless lessons: Facing and working through pain rather than trying to deny it or numbing it with harmful distractions. the willingness and courage to pay the price of the pain of change. The fact that God often humbles us before he can really use us. That pain can mold us in humility, compassion, and love. That true and genuine leadership is about the elevation of those we lead rather than about getting others to do things to elevate ourselves. The paradox that a grace-filled leader can be a visionary “go-getter” and yet be humble. And above all, that leaders must keep their eyes firmly on the bigger picture of the Lord’s kingdom and eternity—which does not minimize our hurt but puts it into perspective.
Finally, each chapter ends with a crisp summary under the headings of “Know this,” “Do this,” and “Think About this.” These good summaries drive home the key points of the chapter and also facilitate further reflection and discussion. This book is structured in a way that can be very useful for reading together as a leadership group or team and then having worthwhile open discussions. But it is to be cautioned that a certain level of trust will be needed within the group to really be open about the pain, hurt and life lessons of leadership. Chand’s book ended too quickly and left me wanting to hear and consider more about the various messages in the chapters. I believe it could benefit from a more comprehensive conclusion or final chapter that tries to weave the previous chapters’ key messages together under the central themes of the book. That said, this book is extremely useful for leaders in business, nonprofit, or churches. Any and all leaders can benefit from the timeless lessons in the pages. Pain, hurt and disappointment are an inevitable part of the leadership journey; Leadership Pain can help us to reflect and be inspired to keep moving forward, to keep raising the threshold of our pain level by consistently looking upward at the bigger picture. This book is equally useful for anyone who is going through or has gone through, dark times in their life. That will happen to all of us at some point in our lives. We are all leaders in some part of our world, and pain is a part of the process of leadership!
Mark Borrett is a senior information technology manager for Hewlett-Packard corporation and makes his home in Newcastle, California, where he serves as a lay pastor at the Gracepoint Adventist Church in the community of Rocklin.