We’re in this Boat Together: Leadership Succession between the Generations

by Camille F. Bishop

Authentic Publishing, 1820 Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921, 2008, 176 pages, $14.99.

Reviewed by Steve Hoke, vice president for people development, Church Resource Ministries (CRM), Anaheim, California.

Long-term YWAM staffer Camille Bishop is on the faculty of the University of the Nations, where she teaches courses on educational leadership and leadership transition. This work of business fiction emerging from her doctoral research at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is written to help leaders of all types of organizations as they deal with leadership succession between the generations. What Christian leaders have not rolled their eyes or muttered under their breath when the differences in values and behavior between the generations impact the traditional way they do their ministry? These values and behavior differences can cause turbulence, which Bishop likens to whitewater rapids. She asks, “Does transition have to be tumultuous, wrenching, and as terrifying as Class IV and Class V rapids? How can we pull together to make leadership succession work between generations?”

Bishop maps out a safe way to navigate through them. She artfully describes leadership transitions through a modern parable—the whitewater rafting adventure of four staff members of a fictitious company that bears a remarkable resemblance to high-profile companies we have watched in the news. Each staffer represents a different generation (Builder, Boomer, Gen X, Millennial) in navigating the risk and danger of the river. In the boat together, diversity doesn’t have to mean disaster. In fact, appreciation of diversity and learning the necessary skills to dialogue with one another can bring the generations together, allowing for tremendous unity and the strength to tackle the whitewater of leadership succession. The parable is more than a fascinating metaphor with some fresh insight. In “Part One: Reality of the Rapids,” one chapter is devoted to the descriptive traits and motivations of each generation, drawing from both popular and scholarly research on generational differences.

“Part Two: Formation of a Rapid” explores the cultural, organizational, and historical circumstances and patterns—including differences in authority and respect; control, leadership styles, and responses to leadership responsibilities; the balance of task and relationship; and the character of a leader—that contribute to the formation of the sheer and often ragged edges between the generations. In chapter ten, “Character of a Leader,” Bishop synthesizes the last seventy years in leadership theory concisely.

In “Part Three: Navigating the Rapids,” Bishop concludes with five chapters on how to navigate the transitions intentionally. EMQ readers may value the final chapter the most. “Successful Changeover” tells the story of Peter Maiden, the new CEO of Operation Mobilization, describing the critical factors that contributed to a mission leadership transition from George Verwer to Maiden that was well planned and well executed.

Having read at last half-dozen other catalogs of generational differences, I appreciated Bishop’s creativity and her obvious grasp of the business and ministry implications of the generational profiles. Beyond mere lists of traits, she pictures the four rafters back in their offices, facing change, handling communication, relating with co-workers, making decisions, and dialoging, thus realistically illustrating the different questions, thoughts, and attitudes that arise in each generation under stress and facing decisions.

Copyright  © 2009 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS. 


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