The Five Phases of Leadership

Another of my summer reads has been Justyn Terry’s book (published by Langham earlier this year) on the five phases of leadership. The author is Vice-Principal of Wycliffe Hall in Oxford and has previously served as a parish minister and the head of a theological seminary in the US.

The basic premise of the book is simple but very helpful: a leadership assignment can be considered as consisting of five phases: establishing trust, cultivating leaders, discerning vision, implementing plans, and transitioning out. While there is likely to be a logical and chronological flow between each of the five, it’s best to think of them as phases rather than stages, as there may well be overlap between some of them.

The chapter on the foundational task of establishing trust is a chapter on the character of the leader. Obviously the subject of a leader’s character could be approached from a number of different perspectives: here, the author uses Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit – the fruit are by no means limited to leaders, but they are explored here with a leader-perspective.

While ‘developing trust never ends’ and therefore phase one remains relevant throughout a leadership assignment, there are other things a leader must do: cultivating other leaders is one of them. The author dips in to his own experience to illustrate the kinds of leaders that might need to be developed and also includes a helpful short section on ways we might identify potential leaders, summing them up with five ‘i’s: integrity, initiatives, influence, intuition, and intelligence.

Next, leaders need to discern vision: what does it mean to clarify the future of your church or organisation? ‘How would you describe it in five- or ten-years’ time if it fulfilled its God-given potential?’ The chapter discusses vision, purpose, and core values. I wondered in reading this chapter if what is presented is more relevant to existing organisations than to new ventures: part of the counsel is to explore the past with a view to discerning a trajectory for the future.

The fourth chapter is by far the longest and most ambitious in the book (it is twice as long as the next-longest). There are a lot of nuts and bolts to work through – all very useful and helpful to leaders who want to do a better job of implementing the plans that arise from their discernment of vision. For example there is wise advice on communication and on the use of time across a church’s year. I wonder if the chapter might have been written differently, with some of the detail (like finance management) covered in a short series of appendices.

Finally, the book discusses transition: when is it time for the leader to move on? Leaders leave too soon or, conversely, hold on too long – especially if Howard Gardner is right in his claim that ‘sooner or later, nearly all leaders outreach themselves and end up undermining their causes’!

Justyn Terry has served us well with this overview of the phases of a leadership assignment: each of the five chapters has something to say to leaders wishing to lead well, regardless of whether they find themselves in phase one or phase five.

The book is available to purchase from Langham.

**Justyn will be joining me on next week’s Leadership Journey Podcast to discuss the contents of his book.

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