After reading Crouch’s “Culture Making” and “Playing God,” I was excited for the release of “Strong and Weak.” It is, I must say, surprisingly short. Though it is nearly 200 pages, the physical size of the book is quite small. The thesis, however, is anything but small. Flourishing – a word that has become increasingly popular as of late – is only achieved when we have both power (authority) and weakness (vulnerability) working together. This is the paradox of flourishing and, as the author shows, the paradox of good leadership. Crouch’s thesis is very easy to grasp – in fact, it appears frequently in 2×2 diagram form – but is profound which speaks to his great writing ability. It also, as the author points out, speaks to the nature of the truth he is writing about:
“Many simple ideas are simplistic – they filter out too much of reality to be truly useful. This one is not, because it is a particular kind of simple idea, the kind we call a paradox. It holds together two simple truths in a simple relationship, but it generates fruitful tension, complexity and possibility” (10).
In writing about flourishing, he also writes about the three other competing categories: exploiting, withdrawing, and suffering. Suffering, different from the other two, has the potential to lead us back into real flourishing, as he notes towards the end of the book. I’m not a leadership book kind of guy, but each of these categories has important lessons for anyone in leadership.
Some books have great content which can be broken down and shared but are, perhaps, too heady for most readers. Other books have great content and are written for the masses. This book, to it’s credit, falls in the later category. I look forward to recommending it to several people and continue to look forward to more work from Crouch in the future.