Big Leaders on Short Ladders

Again, the authors start a chapter with a story. This story is about a leader in despair as he looks over his life and all the wrongs that have happened to him. Success is a surface fixture in a person’s life, but the true character is inside. On the outside this man looked to be successful, but inside his life was falling apart.

At a well-known Seminary on the West Coast there was a study conducted to find out how leadership can have a positive affect. Most leadership fails. It comes crashing down because the leader stops learning, their integrity is gone, they compromise core beliefs, they leave nothing to be admired, they forget about others, and their relationship with God dies. At this point in the chapter, The Capacity Ladder is introduced.

This illustration has four steps to it. The first takes place when the leader determines things they are able to accomplish. The second step is improving their abilities to lead. The third is the desire for rank. Lastly, the leader found climbing this type of ladder looks at their possibilities. Whoever chooses to climb this type of leadership ladder is ascending to promote self at the cost of others.

The authors did a great job describing this type of leadership. Again, I love how they weave through stories and illustrations to make their point. Here they introduced a drawing of a ladder. Examples like this add to my learning capability. I appreciate their willingness to include examples like this one.

They did a good job introducing The Capacity Ladder (p. 17). Not only did they describe what this ladder consists of, but also they drew a picture of it. Again, I learn best when I see illustrations of something described. I would go as far to say that most readers might appreciate illustrations. This ladder, much like its opponent, deals with how a leader will succeed. Climbing it will not bring the right kind of success. Unfortunately, many have climbed it thinking it was the right choice.

I have learned that The Capacity Ladder is the wrong ladder to climb to become successful.


Thrall, Bill, McNicol, Bruce and Ken McElrath. The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.


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