Bolshinger, Tod. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. Downers Grove: IVP, 2015.
Canoeing the Mountains is one of the best books I’ve read this year. As a seminary professor, I was immediately engaged by the title of the first chapter, "Seminary Didn’t Prepare Me for This". I wanted to know if I was guilty of overlooking some curricular core to proper preparation! Bolshinger explains that seminaries prepare their students well for on-the-map leadership. However, what about when the maps are wrong or there simply is no map? Are you prepared to lead off the map as well?

Bolshinger uses an idea similar to the one used by Jim Collins in his book Great by Choice. Collins uses the race between Amundson and Scott to the south pole to draw insightful leadership principles. In Canoeing the Mountains, Bolshinger uses the exploratory journeys of Lewis and Clark to identify how they pressed forward when their maps ended. Adaptive Leadership is the focus of this book, and Bolshinger leans heavily on the work of Ronald Heifetz.

The book is divided into five parts (uncharted territory, on-the-map skill set, leading off the map, relationships and resistance and transformation). Although each chapter is well researched and articulate, parts two and three are worth the price of the book.

Although the exploration and leadership of Lewis has secured his legacy, it was sad when the book reminded me that his extraordinary life was ended by his own hand. Even this amazing man who confronted and led others into the harshness of the unknown struggled with depression.

I have decided to add Canoeing the Mountains to the required text for my “Leading Change” course next semester. I will not fail to prepare my students to lead off the map!

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