The Softer Side of Leadership: Essential Soft Skills That Transforms Leaders and the People They Lead

By E. Habecker
Sisters, OR: Deep River Books (2018)
240 pages

Reviewed by CARLITO P. QUIDET, JR.

This book’s motif brings the reader’s mental assent to the ridge of the soft leadership skills. Amidst the rise of soft skills in leadership, the harder side of leadership is also important. Both sides are essential to have an equilibrium in leadership. The doxological purpose of this 240-page book brings together four essential components of soft-skill leadership. The first type has two components, namely sanctuary and connection. The second type also has two components, namely deep-level relationship and followership.

The first component of soft-skill leadership is Sabbath. A leader should observe Sabbath rest, and it should be a time wholly committed to God. Sabbath is considered as a sanctuary that a leader shall observe. Everyone needs to have a connection with God. Spiritual and physical disciplines are observed during Sabbath, where boundaries in a sacred space are determined. Sacred space provides time for refocusing one’s mind on the mind of Jesus, to achieve the goal of human existence. At this time, “heaven seems to touch earth and leader finds himself aware of the Holy, and filled with the Spirit” (loc. 349). Within this sacred space, a leader can renew his strength to pursue his vision and goal. During the time of sacred space, heavenly wisdom is greatly achieved and the enormous power of God is gained.

The second component is connection, meaning connecting to the heart and mind. Staying connected to the heart is essential in leadership. “But once I had brains, and a heart also; so having tried them both, I should much rather have a heart.” (L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, quoted at loc. 1167). Having the right kind of heart and staying connected to the heart is another soft skill that is a foundational focus for leaders (loc. 1189). Leading with heart starts with being, not doing. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Frances Hesselbein, a former chairman of the board of the Peter Drucker Foundation, puts it simply yet powerfully: “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do it, noting that in the end, it is the quality of character of the leader that determines the performance” (quoted at loc. 1196). Knowing your heart means knowing yourself; being connected to the heart means to be connected with your whole being, who you want to be, and what changes need to occur. A leader is not a spectator but a player.

A creative leader can dramatically change the church/organization in significant ways. “Creativity is a soft skill that celebrates outside-the-box thinking, and can catalyze innovation and change” (loc. 1801). Creativity requires thinking outside the box. An exemplary leader never stops thinking; he analyzes things that matter to the organization. A learned person sees the future brightly and those who are willing to learn new things can change the world.

The third component involves deep-level relationships. The leader should be deeply committed to all his subordinates and should demonstrate trustworthiness in all he does. Intimacy in leadership is also crucial. A leader shall invest his time in his subordinates. He must construct a bridge to connect to his colleagues and their families. Trust is essential in the organization for it helps people connect like a bridge over the river. “Effective leaders make developing and enhancing trust a top organizational priority” (loc. 1947).

Forming meaningful, deep-level relationships is an important component in leadership. A leader should seek to have a meaningful relationship with colleagues. Developing a relationship with the whole church/organization is a dynamic element of good leadership that focuses not on only one or two people but on everyone in the organization.

The fourth component is followership. The term followership is often an unpopular word in leadership but is a powerful discipline used to gain a great success within an organization. Unfortunately, only a few recognize this leadership component as effective. A person who desires greatness in leadership should be a good leader and a good follower. A leader in a big organization is a follower in other small-scale organizations. In life, everyone is part of both big and small organizations. Even the president of the nation, the highest person in the country, is a follower in other organizations such as church, the city or subdivision where he lives. The terms “leader” and “follower” are not mere titles, job descriptions, or personality types; rather, they are distinct roles that executives and managers are called upon to play (loc 2683). Habecker advocates the enculturation of leadership and followership.

Society is in love with leadership but view followership as undesirable. People don’t honor followership because it appears as if it is on a downward trajectory. Aristotle wrote, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader” (quoted at loc. 2662). Michael Hyatt also commented that “if you want to be a great leader, you must first become a great follower” (quoted at loc. 2662). Jesus Himself emphasized that if you want to be a leader, desire followership. The combination of leadership and followership is par excellent. Jesus is a super-follower and a superleader; He was also the most successful leader on earth.

The book displays its wisdom through Scripture, as it explores biblical leadership passages to support good leadership practices. While the book springs from complex terms and references, it launches into a more practical leadership spectrum. It introduces a leader to leadership and advocates to do more than just form a connection; the reader is encouraged to cultivate the connection to bear fruit. The author promotes productivity in work and focuses on colleagues’ heart metamorphosis, fit for God’s kingdom.

The book fails to present hard-skill leadership, even a brief summary, so the reader could understand the whole view of the hard side of leadership. Although the book’s title is The Softer Side of Leadership, hard skill need to be carefully explained or the reader may assign such traits such as strictness, aggressiveness, energy, and bravery to be the hard side of leadership. There is a lack of integration between the hard side and soft side of leadership within the book such that verdant readers could go astray.

The book has a profound insight into leadership; reading this book helps leaders lead their organization with greater success. The presentation of concepts about leadership is, at times, bizarre, and the principles being introduced can be unpopular, but for great leaders, they are proven to be effective. The leadership soft skills so that a reader can easily lose time while reading. Aside from learning, reading this book was enjoyable, for it captivated the heart and mind. The methods for successful leadership are brilliantly crafted and carefully extracted from real-life experiences.

I recommend that you read this book not only once but even twice or more, for it offers colorful leadership perspectives that can be attractive for today’s leaders. The leadership principles are biblically, practically, logically, and philosophically associated with classic examples. This book is comprehensive and worthy of admiration within the realm of leadership, tailoring one’s abilities to cope with the different dimensions in leadership. I recommend this book to any leader who is looking for greater success.

CARLITO P. QUIDET, JR. works as president of Western Mindanao Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Gango, Ozamis City, Philippines.

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