Deep Mentoring, Randy D. Reese and Robert Loane. Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012.
Summary: Deep Mentoring proposes that the development of Christian leaders of integrity is a lifelong, God-driven process that mentors play a crucial part in through attentiveness and focus on the spiritual and character formation of rising leaders.
We usually become aware of our need for leaders of spiritual depth, character and skill when we don’t have them. And far too often, our response is the crash, leadership course and filling positions with warm, and maybe willing, bodies–only for the whole thing to end in many cases with disappointment.
Reese and Loane contend that spiritual leaders of character and skill are developed over time through the deep work of discipleship and the attentive guidance of mentors. The book is broken into three parts. The first begins with “noticing God’s already present action.” Informed throughout by the leadership development work of J. Robert Clinton, they believe God calls leaders but that critical in the work are attentive mentors willing to engage in the slow, deep work of leadership development eschewing superficial, one-size-fits all, ends over means, hurry-up approaches. And what do mentors pay attention to but the stories of persons recognizing the three critical formations of character, skill, and strategy that are worked out in the course of our lives.
The second part focuses on four seasons of our life stories. These are:
- Foundation. In leadership development, consideration needs to be given to how God has been shaping a person from their earliest years and also the “family of origin” influences that shape us for good and for ill.
- Preparation. This ten to twenty-five year period is focused around growth in holiness while discerning and cultivating one’s gifts and the skills necessary to effective leadership.
- Contribution. If one has prepared well, this is the season in which character, gifts, and skill come together in service that has spiritual authority. It is the season of one’s maximum impact.
- Multiplication. In this final phase, the focus shifts from one’s own leadership to developing the leadership of others while continuing to grow spiritually.
Part three goes further with this last phase, which in some sense is involved in helping with the development of others through the four phases. It looks at how Jesus came alongside others in a way that was deepening, particularizing, hospitable and patient and then in the succeeding chapter how mentors might do the same.
Five premises serve as bookends to the book:
- Shape the person and you stand a much greater chance of shaping everything else.
- Discipleship and Christian leadership development are inextricably linked and together make a slow and deep work.
- Igniting a grassroots way toward renewal is possible. It doesn’t have to be top-down.
- A Christian approach to leadership formation requires a ministry of paying attention.
- Conditions can be cultivated in order for local communities to become significant places of learning and growth.
The book concludes with several appendices. “Lessons from those who come before us” is worth the price of admission as they discuss both why leaders finish badly and well. Three other appendices include one on lifelong perspective in developing leaders, observations from Clinton’s leadership emergence studies, and five practices to sustain long haul leadership.
I appreciated the book’s character-driven, developmental perspective and the practical counsel throughout for those mentoring or being mentored. Working in collegiate ministry where one often thinks of the academic year or the four to six years students are with us, the slow and deep perspective can be challenging. Two things seem of importance. One is to never neglect the dimension of investing deeply in people simply to get things done. In our work, we need to think how leadership activities not only accomplish goals but develop people, and make sure they do. Second is to realize that the most important things we do is lay down the preparation for a lifetime of leadership, and a contribution phase still to come.
This is a good book for anyone thinking about leadership development, but is far more than the typical leadership book in thinking of how leaders are formed and of the depth of attention required of those who engage in this work.