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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
172 pages
Jul 2006
Barclay Press

The Leader's Legacy

by David L. McKenna

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


Anyone in the field of higher education would find David L. McKenna's The Leader's Legacy of interest. It discusses fundraising, working with a board of trustees, handling a media crisis, dealing with a college faculty, and constructing new buildings. However, that also is the major weakness of this book. Not much of the wisdom found here is transferable to the corporate arena or to entrepreneurial enterprises. All 33 years of leadership gained by the author were limited to Christian higher education.

Perhaps because the author is recently retired, he spends an inordinate amount of time talking about transference of leadership, knowing when to step down, and passing the baton, (a photo of which appears, symbolically, on the cover of the book). He uses John the Baptist as his continuing role model, in that John had a mission, he fulfilled his mission, and then he stepped aside when it was time for someone else to come in his place. The lessons here are possibly transferable to pastors, missionaries, and principals at private institutions.

The book is liveliest when the author focuses on examples from the world of management, motivation, and innovation, as in his references to Warren Bennis (p. 18), Jim Collins (p. 26), and Peter Drucker (p. 92). However, these are brief and few, with far more references being to former professors of the author or friends (totally unknown to the readers). There is a great deal of autobiographical recollections found here, too, which comes off more like a diary of good times remembered than solid lessons in leadership.

The outline summaries at the end of each chapter are functional. They reflect the basic premise or series of key points found in each section. There are good observations and theories there, but the chapters themselves are a bit loquacious. – Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

“Succession begins before we assume a position of leadership, not when we get ready to leave it,” writes David McKenna.

Instead of focusing narrowly on how a leader can maximize his or her role, McKenna illuminates a leader’s place within the grand scope of an organization’s history and mission. “A leader,” McKenna informs, “builds upon the past, gives momentum to the present, and leaves the promise of greater things to come.” To illustrate this “Succession Principle,” McKenna points to “The Greatest Succession Story Ever Told”—that of John the Baptist preparing the way and then stepping aside for Jesus.

Artfully weaving together the example of John the Baptist and wisdom gleaned from his own 50 years as pastor, educator, and executive in higher education, McKenna lays out 12 succinct rules of succession, guiding both new and experienced leaders from topics such as: building upon your organization’s history and contributing to its ongoing story, perceiving the signals that tell when it’s time to step aside, transferring loyalty from yourself to your successor, managing your emotions during your transition, rejoicing in a job well done and celebrating your successor, letting history be your judge.

McKenna shows us how to be servant-leaders who prepare the way for greater things.