The Making of a Leader by Dr. J. Robert Clinton explores the complicated nature of spiritual dynamics. The book provides readers with numerous accounts of leadership stories that are meant to serve as guidance for emerging leaders. In the first chapter of the book, Dr. Clinton describes five main stages that every inexperienced leader has to go through in the process of their maturing. Those are Sovereign Foundations, Inner Life Growth, Ministry Maturing, Life Maturing and Convergence. The author stresses that generalized timeline was developed by analyzing numerous individual patterns and, therefore, it cannot be applied to all cases. He also mentions that this is only a “functional framework” and that the process of transformation into a healthy and successful leader might be associated with the sixth phase that is called Afterglow or Celebration.1
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Dr. Clinton also identifies other foundational elements of the process of becoming a real leader: patterns, principles and activities. By providing a framework for describing areas of influence, boundary episodes and process phases, he helps the readers to explore their individual stages of development and gives them “a fresh understanding of the touch of God” in their lives.2 Dr. Clinton stresses that God tests a character of an emerging leader by providing them with tests: integrity checks, obedience checks, word checks and ministry tasks. The writer argues that the submission process is essential for boundary transition between the Ministry Maturing phase and the Life Maturing process.3 He teaches the readers that God’s involvement helps the future leader to shift their philosophical basis for ministry from “doing” to “being” and make it the dominant power base.4
Dr. Clinton devotes an entire chapter to the discussion of guidance process and other miscellaneous processes that occur during various development phases and are related to the maturing stage. He stresses their importance by saying that even though some of those items can be perceived as negative experiences, they provide emerging leaders with the important lessons that are essential for “those who want to go ahead and take action.”5 The writer expresses his amazement at the amount of conflict he encounters during his travels; nonetheless, he reassures the readers that clashes with other people’s opinions as well as periods of crisis and isolation are God’s lessons that help acquire spiritual authority. Another important teaching that the book provides for those who are willing to lead is that maturity process is unavoidable and it will come out of the experience with God.6 The reader is also being admonished that personality of each leader is defined by the process of serving God’s purpose; therefore, those who want to minister have to be what God wishes them to be.7
The book evoked in my memory a story of a crisis. It happened a couple of years ago when a member of my family developed an illness. I was particularly broken about it because I knew that before the onset of her disease our bonds were not strong. I still remember the evening when I said to her, “I believe with all my heart in Jesus’ commitment to healing you, and I also want you to open your heart to me. I would like to bear your pain as my own and know that it will become God’s way of bringing us closer in illness.” She told me that my tenderness and courage alleviated her suffering and anguish. Throughout the course of her illness, there never was a lack of prayer for her. I prayed both personally and collectively with the rest of our family and knew that our solidarity in time of crisis helped us to strengthen family bonds.
This situation allowed me to better understand what it might mean to minister in crisis. I realized that critical times are marked by a sense of responsibility that is heightened by increased pressure caused by a threatening loss. It became clear to me that I should not be afraid of those situations and treat them like God’s tests on my way to spiritual maturity. The crisis also taught me that if I want to minister to ill I will have to walk a mile in their shoes, admire their courage and strength as well as draw inspiration and encouragement from their stories.
When reading The Making of a Leader, I found that the author did a great job of building a framework for the development of a leader and a role of God’s providence in this process. I immensely enjoyed his method of making scripture a part of the argument. However, even though Dr. Clinton admits that the book is observational and broadly based on his own and other leaders’ experience, it can be argued that the word ‘leadership’ was employed in a rather narrow sense. I liked the personal touches he added to the book making it more intimate; nonetheless, I believe that many readers who are not willing to minister wondered if the lessons from The Making of a Leader could be applied to their personal life. Dr. Clinton could have made the book better by asking whether it is possible to apply some of the phases that every inexperienced leader has to go through in the process of their maturing for the purpose of guidance for an average reader. It can be argued that most of the processes described in the book could help to develop a personal philosophy of values.
I took a genuine interest in the content of The Making of a Leader; however, it was hard for me to maintain a learning posture throughout the entire book due to the fact that it was too technical and filled with numerous terms. I felt that by constantly adding new definitions, Dr. Clinton detracted from the cogency of his argument. He could have made it more appealing by streamlining it and reducing the number of technicalities. Nonetheless, I think that the book should be taken as a template for systemizing and conceptualizing the process of becoming a leader.
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In the sixth chapter of The Making of a Leader, Dr. Clinton admonishes the readers that they always have to be mindful about the concept that he labels with a special sensitivity. He titles it a sovereign mindset and explains that it is associated with the way of viewing life and life’s events with the focus on “God’s purposes in them.”8 To make his point clearer, the author provides an example of the Apostle Paul as one of the biblical leaders. The writer states that Paul had a unique leadership approach in which he always tended to see God’s hand in all events surrounding his life’s journey as a part of God’s plan for making him a real leader.9 It can be argued that Paul can serve as a perfect example for all aspiring leaders. Therefore, I decided to generalize his leadership approach and apply it to my own life.
To this end, I am going to devote three hours of free time per week to studying his life and missionary journeys in order to draw inspiration from the mature leader who was close to God. Paul wrote a major part of the New Testament thereby contributing to a wealth of wisdom for Christians around the world. The Apostle started preaching about Jesus Crist from the moment of his salvation and traveled many years spreading the word of God and opening churches in every place he visited. During long years of his mission, Paul’s life was endangered many times; however, guided by God, he converted many gentile nations to Christianity. I believe that acquiring more knowledge about the Apostle will help me better understand myself and my personal journey. After all, one of the philosophy values that leaders have to develop is to always maintain a learning posture. Moreover, who could be a better example of a successful leader than the man who has been called “the great apostle” by numerous scholars?10
The second action step that I decided to take is related to Dr. Clinton’s challenge for his students: to develop a list of values. It was extremely interesting to find out about values that serve as guiding posts for his actions. The Making of a Leader inspired me to create my own list that would help me with making complicated choices and decisions. To this end, I am going to seek out solitude in order to create a list containing five values during the following month.
Cate, Robert. One Untimely Born. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2006.
Clinton, Robert. The Making of a Leader. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012.
- Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012), 28.
- Ibid., 46.
- Ibid., 105.
- Clinton, The Making of a Leader, 127.
- Ibid., 145.
- Ibid., 185.
- Clinton, The Making of a Leader, 186.
- Robert Cate, One Untimely Born (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2006), 1.