Life-coaching and leadership books

Life-coaching and leadership books

Making Shifts without Making Waves: A Coach Approach to Soulful Leadership

Edward H. Hammett & James R. Pierce, Chalice Press

A Generous Presence: Spiritual Leadership and the Art of Coaching

Rochelle Melander, The Alban Institute

The Spirit-Led Leader: Nine Leadership Practices and Soul Principles

Timothy C. Geoffrion, The Alban Institute


In Greek the word “to follow” not only means “to walk in the footsteps” of a master but also to accompany, to be with (Jean Vanier).

Life-coaching is “in”: anyone (thinks they) can do it; there are no universally-accepted certification/standards (yet) — although at least one Baptist seminary in the US (Golden Gate in San Francisco) began offering a Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Coaching in 2008.

Google now has ten million hits on the topic, headed by umpteen life-coaching institutes and academies, especially in the US — but everywhere else as well.

Life-coaching is not quite the same as mentoring. A mentor, in my view, has “been there done that”.

Life-coaches, on the other hand, need only one major/basic skill: asking the right questions, so that the “coachee” (yes, that’s a word!) can affirm their own reality and envisage possibilities for their life and relationships and career.

In Making Shifts without Making Waves, two professional life-coaches (and trainers of others in life-coaching) write about empowering people to facilitate and own change — in organisations, secular or religious. (There’s hardly any religious stuff here, and no biblical material that I recall: which is a blessing in disguise because Christian management people often use Sunday school-level examples if they haven’t done a degree in theology).

The book connects life-coaching skills with postmodern thinking.

(What’s out — telling, top-down. What’s in — conversation, peer-to-peer. Propositional is out, experiential is in.)

Some of the richest resources are the non-threatening sets of questions a life-coach might ask. (Like: “What would you like to talk about today?” “Which piece of what you shared is the most critical now?”).

The Epilogue is inspirational and almost worth the value of the book. Beginning with the story of the January 16, 2009, ditching of a plane into the Hudson River by Captain Sullenberger, the authors ask, “What has been transformational?” in each others’ lives and how have they used those experiences to help others?

A book with more substance is A Generous Presence.

Rochelle Melander has been coaching individuals and groups for a decade and has a website about it:

Again, her questions/prompts are terrific: What keeps me up at night or gets me up in the morning? What do I daydream about doing? What would I do if I had only one year to live? What has been my persistent life dream since I was a child?

Offering a rationale for life-coaching, she quotes Rabbi Marc Gafni: “As long as the human being is lonely, all of the good of creation cannot sate him. As long as the human being has no-one with whom to share her experiences, as long as the human being feels alienated, separate from, and empty, then all of the objective goods of the universe will be irrelevant.

“That is the experience of loneliness — to feel apart from, severed from, alienated and empty.”

There are many resources listed here and especially useful are those in response to the question, “Where do I find a coach?” (For example, International Coach Federation, Christian Coaches Network — easy to find via Google).

There’s also an excellent list of good books under the headings Coaching and Communication Skills, Personal Growth, Narratives, and Inspiration.

The easiest-to-read of these books is The Spirit-Led Leader.

I’ve read many Alban Institute publications and have attended their seminars over the years. This 2005 offering’s about the least complicated (the academically-inclined might call it lightweight) of anything they’ve produced that I’ve seen.

In a sentence: the most important aspect of leadership is the leader’s character — or spirituality. The author — a pastor and director of a ministry called Family Hope Services/Treehope based in Minnesota — likes James Collins’ Good to Great (but since 2005 some of these great companies have gone “pear-shaped”), Stephen Covey, Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline), Dallas Willard, Brother Lawrence, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and (with some reservations) Brian McLaren.

The style is hortatory and for young pastors it would be a good book to get them going in terms of developing an authentic devotional life and the desire to be utterly committed to the will of God.

A couple of resources I found in the Endnotes:

•  Spiritual leaders ought to be aware of various dimensions of spirituality favoured by the people they lead. Corinne Ware (Discover Your Spiritual Type, Alban Institute 1995) says there are four, which, oversimplified, are learning (knowledge), feeling, contemplating, and activism/serving.

•  Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization outlines ways an organisation can tap into the ideas and potential of every member within it, rather than depending on ideas coming only from “top-down”.

Rowland Croucher



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