In Review | Leadership Beyond Reason, by Dr. John Townsend

In Review | Leadership Beyond Reason, by Dr. John Townsend

Dr. John Townsend’s new book Leadership Beyond Reason is the perfect take-along for a mini-retreat. If you are in the trenches of leadership, you may feel that you don’t have time to set aside a day or weekend for introspection. You may be more concerned about results than you are about relationships, more comfortable with strategizing than reflecting. Even if your mini-retreat consists of 15 minute bursts of quiet reading across two weeks, you will not regret the time spent with this book.

Townsend asserts that paying attention to the subjective world of values, emotions, and relationships can empower a leader, giving greater success and facilitating personal transformation. Logic, rationality, and fact-gathering are important but leaders often focus on these to the exclusion of the subjective world. Yet these areas “beyond reason” can have a profound effect on your leadership. On the other hand, ignoring these areas can be dangerous for you because they affect your ability to understand and communicate with people.

Each chapter in this book includes stories from Townsend’s experiences with leaders and organizations. As a clinical psychologist, he has a keen understanding of human behavior and motivation. His insightful observations are memorable and his suggestions for change are practical.

Here’s a sneak preview of issues you will consider as you read this book:

Values. “It is important to make sure your values are wholehearted — that is, from the core of who you are.” Values identification and clarification is crucial for both individuals and organizations. However, until you live out your values, they will not be useful to you. Many times, leaders give lip service to one set of values, while their actions display different ones.

Townsend encourages leaders to examine the internal and external sources of values. Does your behavior reflect your values? If not, what values are you operating under?

Thoughts. Although everyone has a unique way of processing thoughts, most tend toward linear or non-linear thinking. Both styles are useful to your organization. Developing the ability to think in different ways will add a new dimension to your leadership.

“Even if you enjoy pure thought, you need to consider your impact on people because you matter to them.” Leaders need to consider the effects of their thoughts on the people in their lives. Sharing your thoughts, ideas, visions, and solutions with others will engage them and create a vital connection.

Emotions. Townsend discusses both positive and negative emotions and their function as a signal to us to address issues in our lives. He calls emotions “the stepchild of leadership” because leaders often shun their emotions. Staying connected to emotions is important, though, because once we identify the source of these emotions, we can take action to resolve the situations that proceeded them.

Passion. “Passion develops when we are doing what we are designed to do.” Passion makes a leader’s direction clear. If you are unsure of your passion, this section will help you identify your area of passion and remove the obstacles that may be hindering you in following it.

Relationships. “The better you understand and use your relational world in leadership, the better your decisions, plans, and vision should operate.” Since leadership is about influencing people, understanding and improving your relational abilities will result in enhanced leadership skills. This chapter introduces the idea of relational images, mental pictures of significant people that can be an important tool for leaders. People who have developed healthy relational images also have the ability to build strong relationships with others. Townsend presents ways to use motivation and challenge in leading others to greater productivity. He also stresses the importance of empathy and the ability to see yourself as separate from the people you are leading.

Transformation. “Transformation is truly leadership beyond reason, for it requires much more than your thought process and your intelligence. It literally requires your entire being, energies, and life.” Lasting personal growth and change is not something that can be accomplished during a weekend retreat. It is a journey that takes takes time and, as Townsend notes, there is no microwave system to speed up the process.

Reading this book and applying it to your life could jump-start the process of growth in your life as a leader.

This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.

About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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What People Are Saying

  • This looks like a great book and I hope it recognizes the interweaving of “Logic, Rationality, and Fact-gathering” with things like “emotion, passion, vision, relationships, and transformation.”
    So far from being “beyond reason” these items must be within “reason”. For example when our emotions are “beyond reason” they could be accurately described as “unreasonable” or “irrational”.
    It is true that the exclusion of these areas in Leadership can be disastrous. However, to focus on the subjective to the exclusion of the objective can be just as dangerous. It’s important to recognize that there is no dichotomy between the subjective and objective but rather the two must operate in conjunction w/one another.
    I trust this book will do just that as it appears that Townsend will point out the gap between the objective and the subjective in our leadership

  • Thanks for your comment, Jeremy. I think the book does a good job of balancing the objective and the subjective, and showing how the subjective areas that influence leadership are interconnected.

  • This sounds like an invaluable insight for both leaders and those aspiring to it. I look forward to reading it.

  • I am involved in the development of leaders within our organization and am always interesting in books on leadership. This looks like a good book to have in my library and look forward to reading it. Thanks for the information on the book.

  • Thanks for the great review. Sounds like a good book. May have to check it out. May be a good Father’s Day gift for my pastor/husband.

  • I find the “soft stuff” (the values, thoughts, emotions, passion, relationships, transformation – and I would also add “self confidence”) that leaders must be skilled with to be the tough things for leaders to learn.
    Logic, reality, fact gathering, etc. are often the skills that are valued and rewarded in organizations. It’s the lack of skills in the “soft” arena that can foster the leader’s demise.
    The soft skills are complex, confusing, and unpredictable – and they require the leader to slow down to understand and learn them, so it is easy for a leader to neglect them.
    This is often where a leader needs improvement and support. When I consider the 150 or so leaders I’ve coached individually over the last few years, the vast majority have had improvement goals that were directly related to the “soft” items listed in this post. No doubt – dealing with the soft skills is hard!
    Thanks for letting us know about this book. It looks like a great read!

  • This looks like a great book for my hockey coach husband. May have to get this one for him for Father’s Day! Thanks for the thoughtful review.

  • This books appears to answer the most basic need of mankind “co-existing together with opinions and diversity”.

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