The Leadership Ellipse (Fryling)

John F. Kennedy was wrong.  So says Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in Houston Baptist University’s forum on faith and public life.[2] Running for president in 1960, Kennedy uttered this famous line, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair.”  Chaput’s response?  “Real Christian faith is always personal but it’s never private.”  There is a lack of coherence, a lack of integral understanding, of how one’s private life impacts public life.

Integral integrity integration—all from the same root word meaning whole—is the essence of Robert Fryling’s The Leadership Ellipse. Fryling maintains that a leader’s external decisions come from an internal drive.  The necessity of aligning one’s living with one’s being cuts cross-grain against any commitment to simple “privatistic experience” (35).  Fryling rightly rests his case for a leader’s interiority change on First Testament Sabbath teaching.  Cultivation of one’s person begins with God’s original intention of rest.  The last day of the week is the first order of business.  In order for the wholeness of one’s person to be sustained, the creational law of rest leading to contentment must be practiced.

Personal growth is predicated upon Sabbath reflection.  No Christian leader should operate alone; whether outside the accountability of others or The Holy Spirit.  Internal growth then leads to a renewed mind, impacting involvement with the world, the “internal compulsions” (102) of prayer life, ultimately leading to shalom—which is defined in Hebrew as wholeness, the integration of all things.  The true greatness of Fryling’s teaching resides in part three of his book.  There Fryling properly aligns wholeheartedness, attentiveness, and gratefulness as the natural results of a supernaturally led life.  Fryling, however, did abbreviate the impact of gratitude linking it immediately with clarity (194)—an unfortunate and unnecessary reduction whose connection still seems murky, even after three readings.  Yet, the driving need for one’s heart affections to be impacted by one’s mind intentions so thoroughly permeates The Leadership Ellipse as to overcome the shortcoming.  Engaging illustrations from various venues constantly give flesh to Fryling’s prose.  All Christians, not simply Christian leaders, would be benefited by Frying’s incisive investigation of interiority.

Chaput is right.  Christian living is always personal yet never private belief.  Leadership books abound which focus on work that need be done by the leader.  Fryling’s book properly places the emphasis on work that must be done in the leader.  Leadership integrity (wholeness of character) depends on integral (wholeness of life) personal integration (wholeness of person).  May leaders’ public lives be shaped be the leader’s private life as they read The Leadership Ellipse.

Robert A. Fryling’s The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How We Lead by Who We Are. InterVarsity Press, 2010.  Reviewed by Dr. Mark Eckel, Professor of Old Testament, Crossroads Bible College.[1]

[1] Review to appear in an upcoming April 2010 entry at


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