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The Mindful Leader: Embodying Christian wisdom, by Peter Shaw 

12 April 2019

Anne Spalding looks at Christian themes in a leadership context

PETER SHAW has long experience working in UK government and then as a coach with international executive leaders and teams. In The Mindful Leader, he applies Christian themes and values to leadership at all levels in an organisation. Despite the short chapters (four to five pages each), plenty is covered — introduction; biblical references with some discussion; a workplace example; and questions for reflection — so skim-reading would miss a great deal.

Perhaps surprisingly, Shaw begins with a section, “Heart”. This includes chapters on resurrection, forgiveness, love, vulnerability, and hope, all of which can appear insignificant or “weak” in many business situations. But Shaw explains their relevance. For example, he talks about forgiveness to release oneself from the grip of disappointment or anger, but also about the need for firm action, and the option of forgiving but being wary of someone. He gives a workplace scenario that brings these aspects together.

The next section is “Head”, which comprises themes that require clear thinking, such as truth, crucifixion, freedom, judgement, and self-control. The chapter on crucifixion starts with the present reality that newspapers and social-media campaigns seek to crucify people, and goes on to explore how to respond to people who seek to crucify your reputation or radically oppose your views.

I was pleased to find that the third section, “Hands”, was more clearly about working as part of a team. The themes include responsibility, sacrifice, community, and kindness. So the chapter on community invites reflection on the extent to which your team is part of a wider community, and on how to handle a situation in which a colleague denies or betrays you.

Three final chapters, “Heart”, “Head”, and “Hands”, summarise themes from each section and add more questions for reflection.

This is not a book that provides answers — “Do this as a next step” — but, especially for Christians working in secular organisations, it gives valuable food for thought and for conversation with others. The same should be true for leadership in Christian organisations, but maybe we are too familiar with the themes to notice all that this book offers.

Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.

The Mindful Leader: Embodying Christian wisdom
Peter Shaw
Canterbury Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70

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