Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni by Chaplain Greg Slate

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni

5 hours reading time

 by Chaplain Greg Slate

 In this book, Lencioni uses a method of presentation that actually reads more like a novel.  He presents the fictional story of a Silicon Valley tech start up that began with great traction, growing quickly under the leadership of the founder.  However, in just a few short years, the Board of Directors asks him to step down into a lesser leadership role because the company had lost momentum and was now a place in which the senior leadership was not working together on shared goals and while the company was beginning to lose market share to competitors.

 The Chairman of the Board brings in a new leader that at first glance, does not seem to fit the role.  She is a seasoned executive leader, but in an industry that is very different from the tech industry the company was operating in.  She was also significantly older than a typical tech executive.  For these superficial reasons, the existing executive team looked at her with great skepticism.

 What was helpful to me in this book is that the author uses the narrative of the story to illustrate the various unhealthy operating methods of those in leadership.  One example is that each executive had grown to only protect their individual areas of responsibility with little concern for how their process might mesh with the other areas of the company.

 In the story, the leader, Kathryn, immediately implements several new processes designed to highlight the dysfunctional aspects of the current leadership model.  Her method also included the expectation that some, or all of the current executives may not remain with the company.  While this created some anxiety for her, she knew what needed to be done and did not shy away from leading them where she knew they needed to go.  That place would be one in which each department would work in concert with the others so that they may pull together in a common effort to enhance to company position in the marketplace, rather than working on their own smaller goals that may be helpful only the leader personally, or to the department.

 The story shows clearly that leading an organization into this type of culture change is particularly challenging and can leave the leader with some scars to show for the effort.  One thing that I appreciated is that the principles shared by the author are applicable in any number of settings, not just a business environment.

 As flawed creatures, all of us are capable of losing sight of the common goal and becoming focused on protecting our own smaller area of responsibility.  I am encouraged that despite our sometimes limited viewpoint, the right leadership can model a healthy way forward that can set the tone for a more selfless way of operating so that all can feel a part of the success of the organization and appreciate the benefits, both emotionally and professionally.

Book Review: Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian, Sarah C. Williams by Chaplain Greg Slate

Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian, Sarah C. Williams

10 hours reading

 Review by Chaplain Greg Slate

 The hospital in which I work has a very large labor and delivery program.  In fact, more babies are delivered at Saint Joseph Hospital than anywhere else in Colorado.  Sadly, due to the large volume of deliveries, we also have a larger than average number of what used to be called miscarriages, now routinely referred to in clinical settings as a fetal demise. 

 As chaplains we are often called to provide comfort to grieving parents as well as completing necessary paperwork for the disposition of the remains of the fetus. 

 When I came across this book, my attention was grabbed initially by the title at first, because of the baby’s name, Cerian.  It is Welsh, meaning fair or blessed.  It is a name usually used for girls.  When I dug a little deeper, I realized that it is the story of parents that despite receiving a diagnosis that assured the baby would not live, they chose to carry the child to full term.  This flew in the face of the recommendations of her medical team to terminate the pregnancy.  It was interesting to read about the reactions of the team members, ranging from confusion and frustration to others that were very emotional about the decision, feeling it was one of courage.

 The author details many events and emotions that she encountered throughout the remainder of the pregnancy.  This included sharing with the other children in the home and including them in the journey, helping them to feel that the entire family was on the journey together.  She also details her own physical suffering throughout, which included extended nausea and weakness. 

 Also included is the sharing of emotions surrounding a very close friend that was also pregnant and delivered a healthy baby.  The way the two women navigated the combination of joy and sorrow and being a support and encouragement for one another is very touching.

 I am certain that stories like this are not extremely rare but they are rarely told.  It is gratifying to read about a family that made a decision that was informed by their faith but also from a deep desire to give this child everything they could until they were not in a position to do so any longer.  So many are unwilling to think of children prior to birth as fully human, often dismissing them as only “a blob of tissue”.  I am happy to read about one family that felt that their terminally ill pre-born child was a person, deserving of care and love even though they would not live long enough to experience this in the normal way.

 In the end, Cerian was born and breathed a few moments before dying, just as the medical professionals had predicted.  They were certain of the outcome but they had no idea of the depth of love this child was given prior to that day. 


Book Review: Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Edwin Friedman by Chaplain Greg Slate

Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Edwin Friedman

8 hours reading time

 by Chaplain Greg Slate, BCC

I am always seeking to find the newest thinking on the topic of leadership.  This book was suggested to me by a colleague with whom I worked at Denver Seminary. 

Interestingly, I had not heard of Edwin Friedman at the time.  This was difficult to understand as I began reading this book, realizing only then that Friedman was well known in many circles of power for his insights into the human condition. 

Usually, I find authors that are willing to share their wisdom learned from personal experience especially helpful.  Friedman did this very well, telling stories from his experience with leaders that came to him for counseling.  Often, these were leaders, many of whom were serving in governmental posts in Washington, D.C., were struggling to cope with very complex situations in which their normal way of operating was no longer providing the type of results they had come to expect.

Friedman was clearly someone who had gleaned a tremendous amount of wisdom by working within systems and understanding how to operate in a more healthy way than he often observed.

His premise in the book seems to be that many in leadership don’t really understand the systems they are working within or are trying to lead.  In many cases, the ability or the desire to push against the status quo in order to effect change has been lost.  Friedman makes the case that often, a leader must be willing to in some ways go out on a limb, to be courageous in suggesting to others a new way forward.  However, this would seem to be rare because many are unwilling to take that type of risk, concerned about the way they may be perceived if they potentially fail in the effort.  Friedman makes the case that failure often provides learning that will inform future decision making and will set an example for others that the organization values creativity and a willingness to take acceptable risks in order to remain nimble and vibrant rather than always taking what is perceived to be the safe route ahead.  It helps to create a culture in which failure is not to be criticized but in fact is part of the creative process and is in some ways celebrated.

I thought it was very interesting that this particular book was never finished being written by the author before his death.  Those that knew him well took up the responsibility to look at notes left behind to complete the writing in his honor.  This says a great deal about the impact that he had on his colleagues and in his family.  I would definitely recommend this as a must read for all of those seeking a fresh way to engage mantel of leadership.

F.A.S.P.E.'s Seminary

Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) provides a unique historical lens to study contemporary ethics in the professions.

FASPE Seminary examines the role played by German and international clergy during the period of 1933-1945, underscoring the reality that moral codes governing clergy of all religions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. Having demonstrated the power held by religious leaders, FASPE addresses ethical issues now facing individual members of the clergy and religious institutions at large. With the historical background in mind, the FASPE Seminary Fellows are more committed and better positioned to confront contemporary issues.

Each year, FASPE chooses 12 to 18 Seminary Fellows from divinity schools and seminaries, as well as early-career religious leaders, to spend two weeks in Berlin and Poland where they visit key historical sites and participate in daily seminars led by specialized faculty. The Seminary Fellows travel with the Medical Fellows, having the opportunity to exchange views over shared meals and in several interdisciplinary seminars. For more information, click here:

Meet IACC's President - Paul Kraus

Paul Kraus.jpg

(Throughout the next couple of months we will be introducing you to various members of our board as well as other members of IACC.  We begin this series of blog entries introducing you to our President, Rev. Dr. Paul D. Kraus.)


Dr. Kraus has spent over three decades in pastoral ministry and pastoral care & counseling serving parishes, healthcare facilities and academic institutions. He is currently the director of pastoral care services at the Austin State Supported Living Center within the Health and Human Services Commission of Texas (HHSC-TX), and adjunct professor at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Seminary of the Southwest, and didactic instructor for the CPE Center at Austin State Hospital, Austin, Texas. Dr. Kraus is a board member with Humanitarians in the Arts, member of the state chaplains’ association advisory committee of HHSC of TX, and member of the seminary of the southwest master of chaplaincy and pastoral care and spiritual formation advisory council.

Dr. Kraus came to Austin nine years ago from San Antonio where he was the director of pastoral care and CPE coordinator for the Baptist Health System, as well as a faculty member and administrator with the Baptist University of the Americas for eight years. While in San Antonio, he held the position of partnership coordinator/ professor for the Texas-Mexico Pastoral Care and Counseling Conferences for fourteen years. Before moving to Texas he held a range of ministerial positions in Presbyterian and Baptist churches in the Philadelphia and New Jersey areas.

Dr. Kraus authored and peer reviewed over 20 professional publications in his career highlighting three distinct national and international publications – (1) Author - “Pastoral Care” A Computer Assisted Instruction for Nursing and Allied Health, A.S.K. Data Systems, Paul D. Kraus. (2008); (2) Reviewer - “The Practice of Community Nursing”, A Computer Assisted Instruction for Nursing and Allied Health, A.S.K. Data Systems, Battey, B.W. (2006); (3) Academic Journal Reviewer - “New Zealand nurses’ perceptions of spirituality and spiritual care: qualitative findings from a national survey” Religions, 2017.

+Ordained and Endorsed by the American Baptist Churches (ABC-USA)
+ACPE-Clinical Pastoral Education – 1,600 clinical hours
+BA, Eastern University, St. David’s, PA
+M.Div., Palmer Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA
+D.Min, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas

Doctor of Ministry in Christian Spirituality and Chaplaincy - Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

From time to time we will make you aware of various educational opportunities provided by different institutions that are committed to the advancement of chaplain education.  We are so very glad to inform you of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary's new DMin program in Christian Spirituality and Chaplaincy.  The program consists of two, one week classes for the Chaplaincy concentration.  Each year there is typically a week in January & August where students must be present at APTS to take classes and then are given particular assignments before and after those weeks.  Click here for more information about their The Doctor of Ministry program.