The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How We Lead by Who We Are, By Robert A. Fryling alt

The Leadership Ellipse

Shaping How We Lead by Who We Are

by Robert A. Fryling
Foreword by Eugene H. Peterson

The Leadership Ellipse
  • Length: 220 pages
  • Published: February 17, 2010
  • Imprint: IVP Formatio
  • Item Code: 7927
  • ISBN: 9780830879274

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Everyone in a position of responsibility knows the tension of leadership. It may be between tasks or people, money or mission, the present or the future. One often neglected tension is between our inner spiritual longings and the outward needs of the group we lead.

But we need not feel forced to choose between the two. Leadership has more in common with an ellipse with two focal points than a bull's-eye with a single target. The Leadership Ellipse is designed to help Christian leaders embrace both halves of the tension--our internal relationship with God and our external relationship with others--to find a truly authentic, integrated way to lead.

If you find yourself in a lonely, isolated place of leadership, this book can be your companion. If you find yourself longing to lead in a way that is truly Christian, this book can be your guide. And if you are simply exhausted, then this book can offer you a new way to find refreshment. There is life beyond the bull's-eye.

"[Bob Fryling's] message is two-pronged: you can't be a Christian activist without being contemplative; you can't be a Christian contemplative without being an activist. With winsome accuracy he has joined two ways of life that are often 'put asunder.' It strikes me as a remarkable achievement. "This is not a book of advice on how to do it; it is more like a personal journal of a Christian leader who has spent his life being a competent leader and a thoughtful Christian."

From the foreword by Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message

"As there are learning disabilities, so there are leadership disabilities, and chief among them is the gap that Bob Fryling highlights: between the leader's outer and inner worlds. I find The Leadership Ellipse to be both challenging (dealing with debilitating but often overlooked issues like self-pity and jealousy) and hopeful (chock full of delightful analogies and wise counsel). Read this book to inspire you to leadership which is neither fat with ideas nor thin in practice, but truly elliptical--shaped like Jesus!

Leighton Ford, author of The Attentive Life

"What makes this book especially valuable among writings on leadership is its richness of detail concerning the fine texture of the leader's life and personality. The weight the leader must bear, in order to carry through with the calling upon his or her life, simply crushes the person who is not, throughout their being, solidly joined with what is good and with God's grace upon all of it. So joined, in ways the author makes clear, there is joy and love, space and creativity, no matter what."

Dallas Willard, Author of The Divine Conspiracy

"With intelligence and wit, Bob Fryling wrestles honestly and graciously with some of the great paradoxes and finer nuances of leadership. This book will be a great blessing to those of us who are seeking to remain faithful to God in the trenches of leadership."

Ruth Haley Barton, president, Transforming Center, and author of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

"Bob Fryling's book is both inspirational and practical. He unpacks the issues and complexities of managing a spiritual leader's life. With biblical and timeless suggestions, it is a must-read for all who want to lead like Jesus for the long haul."

Dr. MaryKate Morse, author of Making Room for Leadership

"Christian leaders are often devoured by their jobs, either because they are insensitive and inattentive to what's happening around them or because they are unaware of what's going on inside them as they lead. The result of this external and internal inattentiveness is often disaster: for organizations, for the people who serve them and for the leaders who attempt to guide them. Bob Fryling has written a wise, honest, insightful book that encourages leaders to take a closer look at their world and themselves. His coaching is invaluable and--by God's grace--will help to bring wholeness and integrity to Christian leaders who too often lead in a fragmented, frenetic fashion."

Chris Hall, chancellor, Eastern University, and author of Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers

"Bob Fryling blesses us with a perceptive and well-nuanced approach to effective Christian leadership. These thoughtfully composed ideas and experiences are broadly authentic and much needed."

Max De Pree, author of Leadership Is an Art

"In The Leadership Ellipse, Bob Fryling provides a smart, useful guide for leaders who want to bring their spiritual lives into alignment with their organizational objectives. For too long, we have seen these as entirely separate spheres, but as this book shows, they are really twin foci that define reality for every leader. Over the next decade, leaders who succeed will be people who bring all of their lives--personal, spiritual and organizational--together. The Leadership Ellipse shows us how. Every leader ought to read this book."

D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power

"Integrity is a silent quest for many Christian leaders. Integrating a rich spiritual life with a healthy work-life balance is challenging for busy leaders. Bob gives us tremendous insights and understanding toward living an integrated, authentic life. The Leadership Ellipse is a thoughtful and challenging guide to help us shape our own journey and calling."

Al Lopus, president, Best Christian Workplaces Institute

"Our hearts long for an integrated life. Yet our schedules suggest this is impossible. In The Leadership Ellipse, Bob Fryling gives us both hope and a practical handle on how to merge life in the Spirit and life in the fast lane. I can't overemphasize the significance and timeliness of this message."

John D. Beckett, chairman, the Beckett Companies, and author of Loving Monday and Mastering Monday

"Bob honors leadership, and he knows the soul. If you let him, he will help you connect the dots."

John Ortberg, author and pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

"Written by a publisher, The Leadership Ellipse has insightful suggestions for pastors, politicians, princesses or any other person who has a commitment to Jesus Christ and, at the same time, is called to leadership in any of its forms. Bob Fryling hits the bull's-eye with his reminder and challenge that Christian leaders are ultimately called to have their outer worlds in harmony with their inner worlds--and vice versa! Not content to simply offer us this deepest meaning of integrity, he also suggests spiritual practices to attain it and strengthen it. In doing so, Bob Fryling proves to be a most reliable mentor for leadership in the Christian tradition."

Albert Haase, O.F.M., author of Coming Home to Your True Self and Living the Lord's Prayer

"If St. Benedict were still alive, he would have written this book. Since he isn't and couldn't, Bob Fryling has. The result is a rule of life formed over the years by one who, faithfully and introspectively, has lived those years in positions of highly visible Christian leadership. Every person in any role of Christian leadership today, however humble or mighty that role may be, will do well to attend carefully and prayerfully to what is written here."

Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence

"Bob Fryling is a perfect example of someone whose outstanding leadership is very much grounded in his deep faith. So when he writes about this subject, it comes both from an intellect informed by long experience and a heart shaped by selfless service--a very compelling combination."

Dr. Tim Johnson, medical editor, ABC News, and author of Finding God in the Questions

"If you find yourself in a lonely, isolated place of leadership, this book can be your companion. If you find yourself longing to lead in a way that is truly Christian, this book can be your guide. And if you are simply exhausted, then this book can offer you a new way to find refreshment. There is life beyond the bull's-eye."

Youth Discipleship Leadership, Summer 2011

"Leadership Ellipse contains both information and applications, this book engages you in an introspective way, usually reserved to the likes of Andrew Murray. . . Fryling writes from the position of a successful executive to other leaders struggling with the paradoxical demands of personal spirituality and organizational leadership."

Jere Phillips, Great Commission Resurgence Journal, Summer 2010

"There's a great deal of wisdom, truthfulness, and intelligence in the book. Anyone who leads others, whether in a secular organization, church, or Christian organization, will greatly benefit from the author's experiences and observations. Recommended."

Neil Bartlett, CBA Retailers Resources, March 2010

"The first section of this book provides perspective on the inner world, while the second section does the same for the outer world. The third section joins the first two together and demonstrates how their relationship can lead toward individual practices that are holistic for the individual and community. Throughout the book, the author includes the narrative of his journey, which functions as a travel companion guiding the reader in the construction of a personal leadership ellipse. The result of reading just might lead to the reconciliation of two worlds and an answered prayer."

Eric Mathis, Worship Leader Magazine,

"Publisher Fryling bases his teachings on Scripture and gives advice he has found to help him on his journey, such as following Lent and practicing the Sunday Sabbath. With numerous anecdotes, he shares his own successes and failures as a busy leader in the Christian community. I recommend this book for Christian leaders of all ages because it focuses on the necessity of biblical, Christlikeness in effective leadership."

Church Libraries, Spring 2010

"The book is well written, honest and frank and his personal reflections are real and helpful. Any leader would be a better leader and person by reading and practicing the advice in this book."

Peter Corney, Branch Matters Magazine, July 2010



Part One: Shaping Our Inner World
1 A Weaned Soul: The Practice of Sabbath
2 A Growing Strength: The Practice of Pruning
3 A Renewed Mind: The Practice of Humble Thought
4 A Dancing Heart: The Practice of Involvement

Part Two: Shaping Our Outer World
5 In a Frenzied World: The Perspective of Prayer
6 In a Lonely World: The Promise of Belonging
7 In a Fragmented World: The Pursuit of Shalom

Part Three: Shaping Our Leadership
8 As More Than a Grasshopper: The Practice of Wholeheartedness
9 As an Organizational Ecologist: The Practice of Attentiveness
10 As a Grateful Creature: The Practice of Clarity

Appendix: InterVarsity Press Purpose and Values Statement
Questions for Contemplation and Action
Recommended Reading


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Robert A. Fryling

Robert A. (Bob) Fryling is former publisher of InterVarsity Press and vice president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He writes, speaks, and teaches in the areas of spiritual formation, leadership, Christian faith, and culture. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Alice, an author and spiritual director. Together they have coauthored three books.