Author Wednesday: Shaping How We Lead By Who We Are by Kit Cabullo

Posted: October 10, 2012 in Author Wednesday

Kristian Aldrich Cabullo serves as a Marketing Officer at OMF Literature. He is also a pastoral assistant at Bliss Christian Fellowship Church. He took up Pastoral Ministries Program in Conservative Baptist Seminary Asia. You can read more of his writing at his blog Stitches of Bliss

“This is probably just a typical leadership book that talks about integrity, just like the hundreds, if not thousands, that have been published under this category.”  That’s what I thought the first time I heard the title Leadership Ellipse: Who You Are Shapes How You Lead


Although I love reading books on leadership, the ever-increasing popularity of do-this-and-do-that-and-you’ll-be-a-good-leader concept creates in me a fear that we might be missing out something more important than a to-do list. And what bothers me more is that even the meaning of virtues such as integrity have been watered down into mere formulas to attract people and make them follow whatever the leader tells them. In Christian circles, virtues are no longer pursued for personal and spiritual transformation, but are used to draw people and achieve success. So before I started reading Leadership Ellipse, I felt the need to pray to be rescued from another book that tries to persuade me to “aim high and hit the mark.” And indeed, I was rescued.


Using a poem, the author, Robert Fryling, starts his book by confessing his own dilemmas. In this poem, a peacock prays to reconcile two seemingly contradicting realities: its external beauty and its “meager heart.” He then explains how this is true for him, how the imbalance between his “external organizational success principles and internal spiritual disciplines” makes him struggle. He asks, “Is the world of success different from the world of the soul that I simply have to live with this split personality and hope that God is okay with this kind of average life?” This dichotomized emphasis in leadership leaves many of us leaders with either a guilty conscience that hinders us from effectively serving our people, or a numb heart that ignores the complexity that weakens us from within. The issue is not that we lack the other half, but that most of us wrestle to find a connection between these two worlds.


We need to see that one point is not inferior to the other. Fryling, a “highly cognitive person” (he prefers not to call himself a nerd), urges us to understand this tension as an ellipse. I was about to abandon all hope because he mentioned this – something from geometry and math – but his analogy compelled me to get another cup of coffee and move on with my reading. He says, “…an ellipse, which looks like an elongated circle, is defined by two distinctly different focal points that are of equal importance… Spiritual leadership can be understood as an ellipse. One focal point is our inner spiritual life, our longings, our affections and our allegiance to God. The other focal point is our outer world and organizational life, what we do and how we do it. Together these focal points define an ellipse that circumscribes our true spiritual leadership. It represents the dynamic tension between our soul and our actions, and gives us a mental image for personal, spiritual and professional integrity in who we are and how we lead.”


Interestingly, he does not present these two focal points as two separate entities, as though they’re treading different directions. Both of them aim for integrity in leadership, the shaping of how we lead by who we are. Though they are both unique in their nature because one is an inner experience and the other is more of an external manifestation, there is a connection – an interweaving of the affairs of the soul and the actions of the self. He recognizes that there is a “dynamic tension,” that one is needed for the other one to progress. For the leadership ellipse to take shape, these focal points must consistently be developed while complementing each other.


Moreover, Fryling also stresses that it is not sufficient to just be authentic because authenticity is neutral by nature. One can be a serial killer and authentic at the same time if the crimes he committed are just evidences of a heart full of hatred. Integrity, therefore, is not achieved simply by applying a formula of adding spirituality to your steps towards success. And it is more than just trying to make what you do consistent with what you are. He says that “our interior lives not only have to align with our external lives but they need to be aligned with the call of God’s Spirit in our lives.” The principles and practicalities proposed in his book hang on this single principle. So before he tells us what behaviors a good leader must have, he begins with helping us understand the inner world of the leader.


I think Fryling’s book has an edge over other writings on leadership. Most of these other books tell you that you have mistakes, that you just need to work out on your organizational and interpersonal skills, and that you just have to know a few basic steps on how to handle and motivate people. But they do not really tell you that your heart has a problem; and that is where Leadership Ellipse rises above them. Fryling recognizes what the Bible teaches on this matter citing Jeremiah 17:19, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” He wants leaders to understand this so much that he confesses that “I need my heart to be tutored with biblical truth and I need a spiritual and prepared mind to lead me into holy nonconformity.” Thus, Fryling discusses in first part of the book a very common problem that most leaders have in their inner world. In the hearts of those with high positions, hidden from the eyes of their followers, lies discontent. Now it’s one thing to say that we must not be contented with routines and average results; but it’s another thing to be restless and struggling inside because of unmet expectations. He conveys that this discontent is the result, not only of the pressure that comes from other people’s demands, but also of the pressure that comes from our selves. This happens when we fail to recognize our human limitations and expect too much from ourselves, or dream too much for the people that we lead. If we fail to discern what’s really happening inside ourselves, we would be drawing a shape of leadership that looks so different from an ellipse. It is a solid biblical principle to always go back to check ourselves before going out to either reach or judge others. And I commend the author for leading us back to where and how our leadership should start.

The Leadership Ellipse: Who You Are Shapes How You Lead by Robert Fryling is available at all OMF Lit Bookshops nationwide for only P250

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