Leadership Beyond Reason by John Townsend


John Townsend, Leadership Beyond Reason: How Great Leaders Succeed by Harnessing the Power of Their Values, Feelings, and Intuition (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009). $22.99, 179 pages.

Leadership is influence. And influence is a rational process. Leaders analyze their situation, strategize a way forward, and incentivize others to move in the right direction.

Influence also draws upon nonrational factors, however. Nonrational does not mean irrational. The former is against reason, the latter beyond it. In Leadership Beyond Reason, John Townsend addresses the nonrational side of leadership by looking at values, thinking processes, emotions, relationships, and the experience of transformation.

Townsend is a Christian clinical psychologist and author of several best-selling books, including Boundaries, Who’s Pushing Your Buttons?, and It’s Not My Fault. His interest in emotional well-being is evident throughout the book. Indeed, the book’s thesis is that “[g]reat leaders succeed by harnessing the power of both the external world and the internal world,” that is, “the world of objective reality and the world of subjective response.”

In my opinion, the chapter on emotions is worth the price of the book. Feelings, Townsend writes, “alert you that something is going on, something you need to pay attention to and deal with. That something may be an event outside of you or one inside.” Whether negative or positive, emotions signal you that something needs to change. A successful leader listens to his emotions and makes the right changes.

Most of Townsend’s examples in this book are drawn from the business world, but what he writes is applicable to leaders in all kinds of organizations, including churches and non-profits. To be successful, leaders should know their “business,” but in addition, they must know themselves.

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One thought on “Leadership Beyond Reason by John Townsend

  1. susan says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on this book. I’ve found the Cloud/Townsend “Boundaries” series very helpful–even developed a mini-seminar loosely based around them. (They’re not written very well and tend to get repetitive, but I’m not picky!) This book sounds interesting, and I hadn’t heard of it.

    Susan Raedeke

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