Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence
by Alexandre Havard
Scepter, 172 pages, $16.95
Augustine called it libido dominandi—the lust to control and dominate. For many, fulfilling this desire is what leadership is all about: fame, fortune, and power; being recognized, respected, even feared. Alexandre Havard says instead that authentic success isn't about positional status or the esteem of others. It's about the excellence intrinsic to an activity and, ultimately, to living a human life well.
For Havard, “leadership is character.” The director of the European Center for Leadership Development, Havard has turned the course he delivers throughout Europe into a little book of profound wisdom.
While some claim that leadership is limited to the few, Havard argues that everyone is called to, and in fact does, exercise some form of leadership every day. And while some view leadership as a matter of temperament, Havard argues that “leaders are not born, they are trained.” Virtuous Leadership is, in its way, a training manual for the virtues needed to lead authentically. Drawing from both Athens and Jerusalem, Havard gives readers an introduction to virtue theory and the four cardinal virtues—prudence, courage, self-control, and justice—as applicable to leadership. Since genuine leadership isn't about self-aggrandizement but service to others, Havard argues that magnanimity and humility also play a role. Along the way, he explains how virtues are acquired and lost, how they stand or fall together, and how they lead to fulfillment. He closes with the theological virtues, arguing that the best leaders also practice faith, hope, and love.
The book is peppered with examples from everyday life—even though Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas figure in his presentation of the classical virtues. While the book is intended to reach a secular audience, many of the examples are drawn from Christian sources, and the argument itself is thoroughly Christian—of an Opus Dei variety.
Havard does a good job of keeping the book broadly accessible. The major downside of the work is that Havard does little, beyond providing illustrative examples, to specify how one would determine what virtue demands in a given situation. For that, one will need to act on Havard's closing recommendations to begin a plan of life marked by examination of conscience and spiritual direction. One need not lust for power forever.
— Ryan T. Anderson
What's So Great About Christianity
by Dinesh D'Souza
Regnery, 348 pages, $27.95
D'Souza, the author of Illiberal Education and The End of Racism, among other provocative books, here takes on the recent spate of books promoting atheism and assaulting Christianity in particular. While his latest offering has an undeniably polemical edge, it pro-vides generally thoughtful and well-informed answers to conventional charges against Christianity and ends on an invitational note to join in the high adventure of discipleship. This is a spirited entry in the continuing revival of Christian apologetics.The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam's Threat to the West
by Lee Harris
Basic, 290 pages, $26
The culture of reason is a unique and fragile achievement of the West. The title and subtitle tell the rest of the argument, which is well made, despite the author's old-fashioned history of how the Protestant Reformation freed the West from a Catholic Church that stifled reason. Thomas Aquinas, among many others, does not make an appearance.
Late Have I Loved Thee: Selected Writings of Saint Augustine on Love
edited by John F. Thornton
Vintage, 464 pages, $14.95
The series known as Vintage Spiritual Classics, now including almost thirty handsome paperback volumes, is a great gift. For the present book the editors have exercised their customary good judgment in selecting from the many writings of the bishop of Hippo the most incisive and moving reflections on the ways of loving and being loved. A book to keep by your reading chair and go back to again and again.
Faith in the Halls of Power
by D. Michael Lindsay
Oxford Univ. Press, 331 pages, $24.95
A useful survey of evangelical successes in penetrating the echelons of politics, business, the academy, and other “halls of power” by a sociologist at Rice University. The claim that they have “joined the American elite” suggests that they are more securely ensconced than is likely the case, but it is obvious they are not the outsiders they once were.
Chance or Purpose?
by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
Ignatius, 200 pages, $19.95
Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, one of the most influential voices in the Catholic Church, develops arguments that he has advanced in these pages. This will be welcomed by those devoted to faithful reason and a reasonable faith, which, Schönborn contends, should be inseparable.