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on 28 January 2010
The book is an attempt to look at leadership, specifically Christian and otherwise, by making connections between Church life and some current theories of leadership. He establishes his argument through a series (success)stories and in this Cottrell displays both the strengths and the weaknesses of what is sometimes thought of as the characteristic way Anglicans think: by rooting his suggestions in experience, it comes across as taking all our experiences seriously, while suffering from the weakness of not always making it clear what we are to draw from that experience.
Cottrell assumes what our experience and most research tells us, that the majority of people in this country do not regularly associate themselves with organised religion. Some of the implications of this are played out in a chapter entitled Stating the Obvious, where he describes how he persuaded his parish to engage in a mission initiative through familiar structures, in this case by using the form of a jumble sale to commend the Faith rather than clothes and bric a brac and in a way that comes across as reassuring and innovative at the same time. This is a helpful lesson, both in successful mission, and in how echoes from Christian history can be played out in a parish setting. After all Augustine of Canterbury did something similar, when he transformed pagan worship sites into centres of Christian worship. Fresh expressions have been with us for longer than we think!
There is however an ambiguous note, when it becomes clear is that this story is to a significant degree a case study in the concept of `ownership' which some would recognise as benign dictatorship. These are ambiguous concepts, meaning legitimately persuading people to value a new idea, while also being experienced as manipulative. In the end, though, Cottrell manages to convince that fresh eyes are more likely to be vehicles of grace than not.
This book is both an example of and a lesson in taking the calculated risk of operating somewhere between the manipulations of `ownership' and the opportunities that come by taking seriously recent thinking about leadership. It succeeds to the extent that it uses these theories pragmatically. In doing so Cottrell implies something vital about how we can and should accept that in the complex relationship Christianity has with the wider cultural realities we are all subject to, it is impossible not to learn useful things, while seeking to avoid getting in the way of God, revealed to us in Jesus. We would all do well to pray for discernment.
Hitting the ground kneeling is counter-intuitive and possibly painful, like so much in the Christian life. Cottrell knows this and in the use of stories, this book conveys genuine insight about what it means to be the Church. Wisdom doesn't lie so much in the actual tips he offers, though they contain helpful possibilities. Nor does it lie in the stories, though they are instructive. It lies, as it does in much of life, in the interaction of experience and faithfulness to which we are all called. It lies in the call to adoration of the abiding mystery of God and in the expression of that adoration and faithfulness in being a Church that is authentically open to discover that kingdom for which we dare to pray.
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on 1 April 2014
As with all Stephen Cottrell's books, this one is very readable and gives much food for thought. It is aimed at all sorts of leadership, not necessarilly Christian and not just for obvious leaders. Many people have these other roles eg. parents. Take it slowly, as he suggests and read a little at a time. Mossy.
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on 29 March 2013
This book is a fairly easy read, but which benefits from being read slowly with plenty of time for reflection. Stephen Cottrell suggests a radical new approach to leadership - only radical in that it over turns some popular concepts and replaces them with wisdom based on the servant model of leadership. It has been good to be reminded that the things we invest time and effort into are more likely to have a positive impact than shopping around for something off the peg.
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on 3 August 2017
Good item
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on 30 March 2009
First, there were business books about leadership.
Then, there were Christian books about leadership, invariably from an evangelical perspective, harnessing the wisdom gleaned from the business books, and welding it to Jesus (cf. "Courageous Leadership" Bill Hybels, among myriad options). The gung-ho rhetoric remained: it's just that church growth was the name of the game, rather than profits.
Now, there is this. A Christian book on leadership, by a Christian, but not by an evangelical. The belief that there is a distinctive Christian leadership remains, but gone is a gung-ho tone.
Rather, it's laid back, relaxed (too relaxed?): it's leader as master brewer rather than go-getter or one who "makes things happen". Don't hit the ground running; hit the ground kneeling.
So is it any good?
To start with, I found it all fine, but not desperately penetrating: keeping back and staying calm, seeing the wood for the trees; including others in shaping your vision... etc.etc.
Where it took off were in chapters 7 and 8, which to me felt very different from anything I'd read before.
Chapter 7 is about "Reinventing the Wheel" and stems from an insight that the most effective Christian evangelism course in Britain was not Alpha or Emmaus or any of the other glossy options. It was a home-made one run in a fairly ordinary parish. On one level, it might have been similar to Alpha or Emmaus. In fact, objectively, it might not have been as good as them. The point was, though, that this course was home-made. It was owned by the people who ran it and that gave it a special power any imported course couldn't have. If someone had said to them before they ran the course, "Let's not re-invent the wheel" (which we tend to hear and then nod our heads), then it would never have happened. For Cottrell, 9 times out of 10, when given the option, you SHOULD re-invent the wheel.
Chapter 8 is about "Shedding the thick skin." Not out of a death wish, but out of a desire to be authentic and authentically human. Too much advice about distance and developing a thick skin is really about divorcing our humanity from our leadership. For Cottrell, yes, you've got to be careful about your role in situations and not taking everything too personally, but you've also not got to lose your sense of personal interconnectedness.
For me, this is where the book moved from nice but relatively common-sense wisdom to something decisively new and decisively Christian. Counter-cultural even.

You won't have to be a Christian to get something out of this, but still I suspect that the most fertile readership will be Christians, especially clergy, and especially incumbents. There's one cracking example about shifting the momentum of a parish away from a seeming over-riding mission to run jumble sales that rings very true.

So, enjoyable and insightful in places, if not brilliant all the way through.
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on 3 September 2017
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on 6 November 2014
A really good read by all standards - very informative and relevant to the subject. Just wondering now, how come I am only chancing on it now. Good stuff. I also recommend one titled “Doing Business with God” – here’s a link:

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on 14 March 2010
This book is about an absolute truth and is so easy to read - I have already begun reccommending it to people! For all those who are too busy 'hitting the ground running', at only around 80 pages it can be read really quickly - and then savoured once the concept has been grasped.
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on 22 July 2010
Totally inspirational, far from the madding crowd comes this book full of common sense,one to ponder and to put into action. Excellent a must have for clergy and those who have leadership roles.
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on 18 April 2013
An amazing book, written by a Bishop but a real man of the people and with such common sense.
After reading it I bought 5 more copies to give to family and friends.
Thank you Bishop Stephen for bringing some sense to the life we have to live.
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