I wish I had read this book the very first day I assumed leadership at CBE International. Trained as a historical theologian, there was very little in seminary or graduate studies that prepared me for the spiritual, emotional, and psychological challenges of this work. What is worse, every weakness I had innately possessed or acquired through my upbringing and beyond added to the sinkholes I faced. Nearly at a breaking point, a board member suggested this book. It was exactly what I needed.
While I’ve read many books on leadership, too few delve deeply or wisely into the spiritual realities and possibilities leaders navigate, especially women who routinely face unequal and unreasonable expectations as pioneers in any field. Haley Barton does not address gender bias directly, though I wished she did. However, her book implicitly assumes that women are leaders and this posture is of significant value to women like me. For without models, mentors, or systems and structures of support for women leaders, they create their own, supremely through spiritual disciplines and intimacy with Christ. We see this play out through history. For example, Hildegard, Sojourner Truth, Amanda Berry Smith, and Katharine Bushnell developed rigorous prayer lives that sustained the demands they faced as leaders. And, this is where the book is crucial. The author not only suggests we spend more time with Jesus (whereas most books on leadership do not!), Haley Barton also is intentional to lead readers into deeper spiritual paths toward needed strength for women. Drawing from many wise counselors, traditions, and genres (including poetry), Haley Barton opens new and powerful options in attending to and hearing from God.
Really, it was learning to hear God in non-traditional, non-evangelical ways that had the greatest impact for me spiritually. She draws on the experiences of Moses, who clearly worked with a stiff-necked people on the one hand, and cruel overlords on the other! Most leaders can identify with the challenges Moses encountered. And, it was a huge relief to see how the road of leadership is common, yet decidedly unique when discerning how God might lead in one’s own circumstances.
I’m so thankful for each page, which I savored in blessed solitude each morning with a warm cup of coffee. Because chapters end with a prayer exercise, readers have examples and opportunities to try new ways of “being” with God. For me, it was a huge relief not to “tell God” what needed to happen but listen for the unexpected. I could be a creature and God could be God—a blessed exchange of roles. Strikingly, my morning scripture readings often aligned in some way with the chapter. It was a rich process and one I might pursue every other year. The book is now being circulated around our office. It is the one book I would give any new leader. You should too.