Review: Leadership for a Time of Pandemic

Editor Eric Black reviews "Leadership for a Time of Pandemic" by Tod Bolsinger.

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Leadership for a Time of Pandemic: Practicing Resilience

By Tod Bolsinger (InterVarsity Press)

Between Canoeing the Mountains and his forthcoming book Tempered Resilience, Tod Bolsinger, vice president and chief of leadership formation for Fuller Theological Seminary, provides a crash course in adaptive leadership in his 37-page booklet, Leadership for a Time of Pandemic.

Bolsinger begins by making the case for a new approach to leadership in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has made novices of just about everyone.

He then summarizes Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky’s description of adaptive leadership. For technical problems, clear-cut responses established from prior learning generally suffice. For adaptive challenges arising from new situations, responses must be learned on the fly. Adaptive leadership calls for the flexibility and reflection necessary to move into uncharted territory.



This kind of leadership calls for organizational transformation, starting with the leaders. Such transformation is resisted and frequently sabotaged.

Bolsinger includes two great metaphors for developing resilience—blacksmithing and fly-fishing. Both require commitment, patience and practice to become good at them. In response, Bolsinger suggests spiritual disciplines as a “rule of life.”

Following Heifetz, Bolsinger prescribes observation before acting as the proper posture when facing changing circumstances. The metaphor Heifetz uses for observing is “getting up on the balcony” to get a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on before re-engaging “on the dance floor,” not as a dancer, but as a listener. This back-and-forth observation generates the creativity needed for addressing uncharted territory.



Leaders often feel the pressure to act. Such leaders may not take time to read a full book on adaptive leadership but may be willing to pause long enough take in good counsel for the leadership they need to exhibit now. This book is for them.

Eric Black, editor

Baptist Standard


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