The Tortoise Usually Wins: Biblical Reflections on Quiet Leadership for Reluctant Leaders

The Tortoise Usually Wins: Biblical Reflections on Quiet Leadership for Reluctant Leaders : Biblical Reflections on Quiet Leadership for Reluctant Leaders

4.19 (32 ratings by Goodreads)
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4.19 (32 ratings by Goodreads)
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The Tortoise Usually Wins is a delightful exploration of the theory of quiet leadership. Written for reluctant leaders, it interacts with three key biblical images of leadership - the leader as servant, shepherd and steward - and links them with some of the key virtues of quiet leadership - modesty, restraint, tenacity, interdependence and other-centeredness. Exploding the myth that the good is the enemy of the best, it argues that the reverse is more often true, with images of unattainable perfection crippling competent people from getting on with the task of doing genuinely good things. The book strips leadership of some of its mystique, arguing that the bulk of leadership is about helping groups decide the right things to do and then getting on and doing them in an atmosphere that brings the best out of others. Brian Harris is the principal of a highly regarded theological seminary and also pastors a thriving local church, so the book carries the wisdom of both professor and pastor, satisfying the reader both intellectually and practically. These insights are supplemented by interviews with significant quiet leaders from around the world, ensuring a rich feast for prospective and current reluctant leaders.

'Books on leadership are today two a penny. Just occasionally, however, one of these books might stand head and shoulders above most of the others, and to my delight The Tortoise Usually Wins falls into that category. Furthermore, so many books on leadership are written for natural leaders; whereas, as the author makes clear, most churches are led by "quiet leaders" who know they are not great, but nonetheless, are "tenacious and committed to the task and willing to work co-operatively with others to achieve it". I can see many church leaders benefitting from this book. I warmly commend this unusual book.'
Paul Beasley-Murray, Senior Minister, Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford; Chair of Ministry Today UK
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Product details

  • Paperback | 200 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 17mm | 257g
  • Paternoster Press
  • Cumbria, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1842277871
  • 9781842277874
  • 102,939

About Brian Harris

Professor Brian Harris (BSocSc, BTh (Hons), MTh, PhD (Uni of Auckland)) is Principal of Vose Seminary, a Baptist theological college in Perth, WA. Brian has lived in both South Africa and New Zealand and has successfully been the senior pastor of three churches, each of which grew dramatically. His PhD interacts with the thought of Stanley Grenz and explores the nature and future of evangelical theology. In 2009, he commenced as senior pastor of Carey Baptist Church in conjunction with his role at Vose, giving him valuable practical pastoral insight. Brian is married to Rosemary, and has three children - Nick, Amy and Jett.
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Rating details

32 ratings
4.19 out of 5 stars
5 38% (12)
4 47% (15)
3 12% (4)
2 3% (1)
1 0% (0)

Our customer reviews

This is an excellent book on leaders and leadership. Many books on leadership assume the leader will share the personality and skill-set of charismatic leaders, or heroic leaders, as Brian Harris calls them. Others present leadership in a mechanical sort of way so that almost anyone who aspires to lead can do so successfully if they adopt the right techniques. Brian Harris appreciates heroic leaders while acknowledging the pitfalls they face, but recognizes they form only a small percentage of those who are called to undertake leadership. Differently gifted people who try to emulate heroic leaders often fail in their attempt and give up. He argues many people become leaders somewhat reluctantly, and do so because there is a need for leadership in a context where no leadership would be a worse option – and over time learn to lead effectively in a quiet, undramatic way. Brian Harris calls these people: “quiet leaders” - and likens them to the tortoise of the old story, whereby through taking one step after another and persevering the tortoise eventually reaches the goal. Brian Harris briefly examines some theories of leadership and then expounds a theory of quiet leadership in which the leader is presented as servant, shepherd and steward, based on biblical models. Such leadership is follower focused rather than leader focused. Brian Harris discusses ethical issues involved in leadership and various approaches to them and sets forth key virtues of quiet leadership: modesty, restraint, tenacity, interdependence and other-centredness. While success is important, significance is an even more important goal. We need to ask what we should do before we ask what we could do (otherwise it can lead to pragmatism). Leadership involves the scripting of stories, the leader’s but also those of the people, groups and organisations that the leader’s leadership impacts. The leader needs to know their own story and find their own voice in the overall narrative to lead effectively. And they need to be aware of how the stories of others will be shaped by the decisions they make, as they journey together. Character development is discussed using the SHIFT test, which includes spiritual well-being, health, intellectual development, family and friends, and time and treasure (resources). There are practical suggestions as to how character can be developed in relation to these areas of life and leadership. Brian Harris next focuses on optimizing outputs, arguing that results matter if leadership is to be regarded as actually leading people to achieve something. He says: “leadership is about helping move individuals and groups towards desired outcomes.” (87) Further he discusses casting vision, as a skill that can be learnt, giving practical steps to take. He points out the importance of a missional focus in vision, so that vision is not simply about meeting the needs of the group but also (even primarily) about those outside the group they are seeking to serve in the name of Christ. In no way is leadership meant to be a solo affair and Brian Harris spends considerable time on how leaders can help others shine and develop and work as a coherent team. He seems to find the right mix of getting the task done with good outcomes and investment in nurturing and developing people. Brian Harris discusses the interconnection of leadership and management, the former having more of a focus on vision, change and movement, and the latter on good order, structure and efficiency. There are suggestions for time management and leading meetings. He recognizes from time to time there will be the need for conflict resolution and gives good advice about this, especially through developing trust. The final chapter contains two case studies of quiet leadership: the Baptist Church in WA which has experienced exceptional growth and Carey, a missional organisation which Brian Harris himself now leads. Overall, this book covers an amazing amount of material in less than 200 pages. With each chapter, Brian Harris provides practical suggestions for reflection to enable the reader to take the book’s teaching into his/her life and leadership. It would serve as a suitable basic text for a course on leadership as well as refresher reading for those who are currently leaders or aspiring to leadership. I found it refreshing to read even after 40 years of trying to be a leader in pastoral and theological college contexts, confirming much of what I have believed and offering fresh insights. I found and marked some real gems as I read. For example, “A test of our leadership is what other people become as a result of being in our orbit. Good leaders bring out the best in people; poor leaders the worst...We should aspire to be leaders who add value to the lives of others.” (118) And this from an interview with Lucy Morris, CEO of Baptistcare in WA: as a leader “I am only writing a ‘chapter’, not a book” (152) – a good reminder that we lead for only part of a longer journey those we lead are on; it’s not about us as leaders, but about God, his people and God’s mission. I highly recommend Brian Harris’ book. Dr Peter Ralphs (formerly Principal of Bible College of Queensland, Australia)show more
by Peter Ralphs
The book 'The Tortoise Usually Wins' by Brian Harris examines the theory of quiet leadership. As implied by the title, Harris compares quiet leaders to the old Aesop fable of the tortoise and the hare. Harris acknowledges that most people are not naturally born leaders, however he argues that leadership is in the grasps of most people. He argues that it is perseverance and tenacity that makes quiet leaders successful in their ministry contexts. Harris does a fantastic job of looking at the many pitfalls associated with this leadership style, but does so in a way that is both insightful and encouraging. An example of this is when he speaks about the issues of complexity, betrayal and crisis, and provides valuable insights on how to prepare oneself for when these issues do arise in the Church setting. Throughout the book the author interviews other quiet leaders, asking them challenging questions that reflect on particular chapters. This was particularly interesting to read the experiences (and advice) of these people, as in many ways I found myself relating to them. The book is an easy read, but I would highly recommend that it be read in a way that encourages active self-reflection, rather than rushing through it. I say this because I quickly read through it, but then felt the need to go back to many of the chapters for later review and reflection. I highly recommend this book, to quiet leaders entering into / currently in ministry. I also feel that there are many valuable gems for CHRISTians who find themselves in secular leadership positions. Similarly, I highly recommend this book to naturally born dynamic leaders as I believe it will provide them with an insight of the importance of the quiet leaders in their Church, as well as an appreciation of this "different breed" of more
by Stuart Guthrie
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