NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A leadership vacuum looms in the corporate, political, financial and ecclesiastical realms, Les T. Csorba writes in a new book that describes leadership as primarily a moral endeavor to draw followers to a virtuous destination.

Within the pages of “Trust: The One Thing that Makes or Breaks a Leader,” Csorba draws leadership insights from how George W. Bush dealt with the Sept. 11 crisis and has become a model for leadership over the course of his life. Csorba also pens insights from others’ leadership styles and taps the writings of C.S. Lewis and other thinkers.

Csorba is a partner with Heidrick & Struggles, Inc., one of the world’s premier executive search and leadership consulting firms. He served on the White House senior staff as an aide to President George H.W. Bush and was appointed by Gov. George W. Bush to the Texas Skills Standards Board. Csorba attends Second Baptist Church in Houston.

A widespread distrust of leadership has arisen from corporate scandals at companies such as WorldCom, Arthur Anderson and Enron, Csorba said in an interview with Baptist Press. Such corporate corruption, combined with religious and political scandals, has created a need to reaffirm principles of character and integrity in leadership, he said.

“I had always wanted to write a book about leadership, and it just seemed to me that it was a good time to reemphasize these certain issues of character and trust, which I think are so paramount in leadership,” Csorba said.

Trust, released by Thomas Nelson Publishers, argues that leadership “requires a selfless attitude to lead merely by responding to a need or a call rather than ambition alone.”

Such an attitude will help those being led to develop trust in their leaders, Csorba writes.

“Leadership is built on many characteristics such as humility, service, vision, courage and so on, but, fundamentally, leadership is built on trust. You cannot sit on a broken chair. Neither can a leader lead without sitting on a seat of trust,” he writes.

Despite the need for trustworthy leadership, a woefully insufficient number of qualified leaders are emerging in America, Csorba writes.

“There is a severe famine of leaders today,” he writes. “As the baby-boomer generation begins considering retirement over the next decade, the demand for leaders will soar. The elder members of the sizable baby-boomer generation are approaching sixty, and as they start retiring, leaders with the desirable skills will be in blistering demand. The real talent crunch is on the horizon.”

The first step for leaders seeking to fill the leadership void is to develop a proper view of humanity, Csorba writes, noting that a Christian understanding of sin is integral to a proper view of humanity.

“We are all born dead in sin because of Adam, but for those who acknowledge their own depravity and seek to overcome it with His power, there can be light,” Csorba writes. “Leaders can lead virtuously, without much self-importance, but they must understand that this is difficult and unnatural because of who we are.”

Leaders must see their vocation as a unique calling from God, he writes. Motivated by a divine call, virtuous leaders will be able to transform organizations by leading according to scriptural principles.

“The wages of pragmatism ... have subverted the minds and hearts of spiritual leaders everywhere,” Csorba writes. “Spiritual leaders need not a conformity to the world, but a transformation and renewal of their spiritual minds. They need not to be presented as lovely and acceptable to the world, but holy and pleasing to our God.”

In the book’s final section, Csorba outlines seven principles for building trust among followers. Among those principles, Csorba advises leaders to “live out selfless character.”

Building selfless character “requires a reality bigger than oneself – a reality that impinges upon us from the outside. It, therefore, requires the development of a theology of leadership forged through an authentic devotion to a reality beyond the self,” he writes.

Ultimately, effective leaders must take courageous action based upon sound moral principles, Csorba writes.

“In a time when faith in our leaders and trust in our major institutions hovers at precariously low levels, many have been asking the question over and over, ‘Where have all the leaders gone?’

“... The crisis is so pressing that the time for fence sitting and theorizing is over. We must demand something more courageous, more idealistic, and more virtuous – leadership that does what is right when it is right because it is right.”


© 2004 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.