Leadership Without Easy Answers

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Tyler Jordan
February 11, 2013
Leadership for Ministry
Dr. Levi Price
“Leadership Without Easy Answers” – Ronald Heifetz
1. The Essence of the Book, 2. Main Thoughts, 6. Reflections In “Leadership Without Easy Answers,” Ronald Heifetz gives his take on what it means to be a leader in various types of leadership situations, how to use or not use our authority, and most importantly, the difference between leadership and authority. Throughout a wide variety of examples and narratives, Heifetz shows how these two are different, yet also how that can be used in harmony in a variety of work environments. Heifetz bases the arguments in this book around making two different distinctions: technical versus adaptive problems, and leadership versus authority. Heifetz takes on a tough topic concerning leadership, and that is how we handle problems and tough questions or situations that we may face. He says early on in the first chapter, “This … image of leadership – mobilizing people to tackle tough problems – is the image at the heart of this book” (pg. 15). Heifetz does what he can in giving examples by telling specific stories of how leaders in their respected environments have responded to adversity. It is obviously a lot to ask to have answers to every situation we may come across concerning leadership, so instead, Heifetz breaks down possible situations into three categories, and then gives suggestions on how to handle them.

In what Heifetz calls a Type 1 situation, a problem arises that a leader, in essence, looks forward to. No one looks forward to a problem, but this type of problem is what is called a technical problem, in which the leader sees the problem, has a solution, and is relied on completely by the person who has the problem. Heifetz uses an example of a physician and a patient, and here the patient has a very fixable problem, possibly a virus or something that can be repaired through surgery. In a Type 2 situation, the problem is clear, yet there may not be a very clean-cut solution. This is a kind of work that will take both a technical and adaptive response, and the responsibility/authority lies within the leader and the person presenting the issue. In our physician and patient scenario, an example of heart disease fits a Type 2 scenario. The problem is clear, and the physician presents a solution, yet the execution is dependent upon the patient to take the necessary steps, those being medication, diet, and exercise.

A Type 3 situation requires a purely adaptive response, as technical solutions will be out of the question. The issue presented does not have a clear-cut problem or solution, and therefore the responsibility lies more upon the one presenting the issue than the leader. This does not mean that a possible solution does not exist; it simply means that both parties will have to go through some learning in order to adapt to the issue. A patient/physician scenario could be a chronic illness or disease leading to death. Heifetz puts it this way: “In Type II and Type III situations, treating the illness is too narrow a way for the patient and the physician to define the task” (pg. 75).

Personally, I hope to gain wisdom from this class on how to lead in the local church. I believe that to be my calling that can be exercised in some various ways through different stages of my life, but I understand my calling to be in the local church. In my few short years of experience, the majority of issues I have encountered have been Type II or Type III situations. Occasionally, I’ll get the “I want to be baptized,” or a simple planning meeting that is driven by clear-cut solutions. However, most of the issues that arise from the people of the congregation are unique to them in some ways, and therefore require action on their part as well. Hence, leadership is needed. I know my job is not to fix everyone’s problems, and praise the Lord that it is not, due to the fact that I cannot figure out my own! My...
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