AT A TIME IN WHICH MANY ESSAYS ON leadership have become boring how-to's - or worse, they carry that New Age stench - The Heart of an Executive, written by Richard D. Phillips, offers a refreshing change. The author is a management consultant, lecturer and executive director of The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, a non-profit publishing and radio-programs organization. Phillips uses the biography of King David to discuss key traits that in the author's view every modern executive should have.
Unlike Martin Puns, author of Comeback (reviewed in the August issue of LATIN TRADE), Phillips doesn't seem to believe that the definition of leadership is an enigma. Nor does he believe that worker loyalty to their bosses is shrouded in mystery. Through the life of David, one of the leading characters of the Old Testament, Phillips defines a paradigm of a leader. He believes that this is an infrequently followed model - and that this is the reason relations between workers and management are in crisis. Phillips casts a critical eye on modern leadership, and his work is an effort to address the state of disrepair in today's executive suites.
Phillips compares an executive's career to the life of David, and his message is an ethical one: Management success is not based on the ability to add up numbers, to fashion short-term plans, to react to temporary setbacks with an equally temporary response, or to satisfy one's personal ambitions. The secret is not in commanding, but in serving. Phillips explains how David's shepherding work as a youth prepared him to lead the people of Israel. A shepherd is the servant of the sheep. He watches over them, helps them find the best pastures and protects them from predators. At night, while the flock rests, the shepherd guards them and plans the next day's activities. The shepherd knows his animals and defends them. They are (what motivate his actions and justify his existence. For a true leader, Phillips says, workers "are persons, not human resources:' and an executive must be ready to serve them."
Phillips does not write for the elite. He wants his message to reach the public, which sometimes makes his writing style somewhat fiat Nevertheless, The Heart of an Executive is an original biography of the king of Israel, in a language appropriate to an era in which poetry fights a losing battle with number-crunching. And don't let the simplicity deceive you: Phillips handles his argument with the expertise of a...