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At the beginning of this school year, Kindergarten teacher Carrie Pothoven stopped by my office to share with me a book she had read over the summer, one that had made a deep impact on her. I get lots of book recommendations, but not many from our Kindergarten teachers, and when Carrie speaks I listen. So I ordered the book and set it aside. I started it sometime in the fall and finished it during my study leave.
I recommend it highly. I've even thought of reading it together with our entire Sr. Staff.
Dickson's thesis is simple: humility is a virtue essential to living well and to leadership.
Dickson's definition of humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. The humble person is willing "to hold power in service of others."
Dickson's definition of leadership is simple and sound: the art of inspiring others in a team to contribute their best toward a goal.
The connections to Trinity's credo of Non nobis are obvious and important, and I've been challenged by reading this book to consider the ways that we have and have not held our power in service of others.
This is a book written not specifically for Christians, but for a wider audience. (Some Christians may find it lacking, for this reason. See, for instance, Andrew David Naselli's evaluation on his blog, Themelios.) I, for one, am glad of this kind of approach, for several reasons. It gives us Christians an example (probably not entirely successful, but serious) of how a Christian can attempt to bring Gospel truth into a secular conversation. It also provides us with a glimpse of the riches of an approach that believes "all truth is God's truth," drawing as it does from a wide array of sources and examples.
The independent school heads in Durham and Chapel Hill have been working on a plan to collaborate on a leadership development program for our own staff and faculty--a sort of two-year institute where we would cover some of the essentials of leadership in schools. I was glad to be able to recommend Dickson's book to this group as a solid book on leadership, worthy of their attention, one that acquitted the Christian understanding of leadership in a way that they could all benefit from and that would gently present the beauty of Christ's humility to them.
Because in the end, it's not easy for any of us, Christian or no, to hold power in the way that Jesus did: for others.