David L. McKenna, Christ-Centered Leadership: The Incarnational Difference (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013), 118 pages, ISBN 9781620328477.
If you haven’t had your leadership paradigm shifted in a while, this book will jumpstart the process. McKenna has more work experience than the average minister’s lifespan and yet he states at the outset of the book that he is only now ready to lead. This book is written for emerging leaders, and yet as someone who is an octogenarian, McKenna recognizes that any leader can benefit from practicing sacrificial leadership. He states, “Leadership development without the crucifixion of self is not Christian” (p. 11). He is well-versed in leadership theories and has decades of practical experience, and yet with humility and wisdom he lays out what is lacking in contemporary leadership theories and provides a new model called incarnational leadership. Even servant leadership does not fully meet McKenna’s standard for Christ-centered leadership. “[Christian leaders] are ready and willing to be servants, but we do everything we can to divert the call to sacrifice” (p. 26). McKenna asserts that the sacrifice of our own desires, dreams, and wishes to lead without all the trappings that accompany the position is what Christ-centered leadership is all about. Thus, it is our first move toward incarnate leadership. Using Philippians 2:5-8 as a framework, he lays out over several chapters various ways in which a leader can lead with an incarnational mindset.
The first section of the book focuses on the various aspects of the Self that are developed in leadership through life experiences and training. The Principled Self is, McKenna says, the culmination of transformation from self-interest to serving the needs of others. Nevertheless, the Principled Self fails for several reasons to enter fully into the kind of leadership that leads with the mind of Christ. Only through dying to self, can individuals reach their full potential as Christ-centered leaders. McKenna shows us how this transformation is accomplished in the second section.
To fully lead with the mind of Christ, McKenna asserts that would-be Christ-centered leaders must first empty themselves of self-interest. Jesus, in becoming human, had the same needs as we: self-preservation, self-control, and self-esteem. Yet, he emptied himself of privilege (Phil. 2:6) and his human desires. Jesus led from nothing. What this means is that “he made himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7, NKJV). Leadership often comes with position, power, and prestige. Jesus forsook those things by emptying himself of his privilege to become vulnerable, humble, and obedient to the will of God. Leaders with the mind of Christ are willing also to deny those same needs and become vulnerable, humble, and obedient to the call of God.