Servant Leadership – A Book Review

The 360? Leader
John C. Maxwell
Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization

I’ve been thinking lately about some of my concerns and struggles with the local church. I feel bad about the little hissy fit I threw a couple of weeks ago here on Fumbling. Bad, because I hate it when people just complain without offering solutions. It is a characteristic of poor leadership. I realized that I needed to evaluate my leadership skills, and there’s no better time than the present! So I borrowed this resource from my library, and because I think it is a pretty strong resource, I’m going to review it here.

In this book, Maxwell describes how to lead through influence rather than authority, and how to extend your influence not just down, but up, across, and diagonally. He develops a relational-based model of leadership. Authoritarian leadership models aren’t what they used to be – or maybe they are, but we’re finally beginning to SEE them for what they are – limited methods that can cause as much damage as growth to a group.

I liked this book particularly because I can see a lot of room for application of this concept to our church settings. So many Christians, despite their congregations’ best efforts, feel left-out and pointless in their religious lives. Maxwell suggests that this is because of one of the several myths about life and leadership in the middle of any organization.

I. Myths about “Leading from the Middle”

a. Position – “I Can’t Lead If I’m not at the Top”

Truth: Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit.

b. Destination – “When I Get To The Top, I’ll Learn To Lead”

Truth: When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare. – John Wooden

c. Influence – “If I were on top, people would follow me”

Truth: Influence must be earned.

d. Inexperience – “When I Get to the Top, I’ll be in control”

Truth: Being at the top has its own set of problems and challenges.

e. Freedom – “When I Get to the top, I’ll no longer be limited”

Truth: The amount of responsibility you take on increases faster than the amount of authority you receive.

f. Potential – “I can’t reach my potential if I’m not the top leader”

Truth: Each of us should work to reach our potential, not necessarily the top office.

g. All-or-Nothing – “If I’m not top dog, I won’t lead at all”

In the August 2005 issue of Fortune magazine, six men were hailed as unsung heroes of the civil rights movement, even though there is no evidence that they ever marched or sat in at a lunch counter. “Their contributions — and their battles– occured in corporate America. They led their way into the executive suite of companies such as Exxon, Philip Morris, Marriott, and General Foods.”

Bud Ward, who retired as senior vice president at Marriott, was hired by Bill Marriott and thus became the hotel industry’s first black vice president. During his twenty years of leadership at Marriott, he opened 350 hotels, helped to develop the Courtyard by Marriott chain, and oversaw the company’s infotech team. He is well aware of the impact he made. “[The civil rights movement] was a two-pronged thing,” he says. “You do the amrching and the raising hell and whatnot, but you’ve got to have somebody on the inside to interpret that to the individuals that you’re trying to reach. I saw that as my role.”

Ward’s story really resonated with me as I struggle to identify and understand my role in the local church. Everyone wants to be one of the Twelve, leaving all to follow Jesus, dreaming of the heroic spiritual life of someone else. No one notices that the some of the most influential men in the early church (Paul, James, Jude, and perhaps even the major writer of the Johannine literature) were NOT members of that group.

But I digress! Maxwell’s main agenda is to warn about challenges and offer guiding principles for the three leadership directions. This is where the book begins to labor, at least for a post-modern like me. The format pretty much follows and expands upon the following outline.

II. Leading Up

a. Lead Yourself!

b. Lighten Your Leader’s Load

c. Be Prepared Every Time You Take Your Leader’s Time

d. Become a Go-To Player

e. GROW!

III. Leading Across

a. Balance Completing with Competing

b. Be a Friend

c. Avoid Office Politics

d. Let the Best Idea Win

e. Don’t Pretend You’re Perfect

IV. Leading Down

a. Develop Team Members

b. Put Your Aces in Their Places

c. Model the Behaviors You Desire

d. Transfer the Vision

e. Reward for Results!

V. The Value of 360? Leaders

a. Leadership Teams More Effective

b. Leaders are needed at EVERY level

c. Leading at one level is a qualifier for leading at the next level

d. Good Leaders in the middle make better leaders at the Top

Don’t get me wrong! Under all of his headings, Maxwell offers a ton of great information, encouragement (without being unrealistic or rah-rah!), and guidance, but there is only so much of “6 Warnings” and “7 Principles” and “10 Guidelines” that my AD/HD brain will handle at one time. Further, there are some awesome quotes from real-life leaders, which Maxwell uses to great effect in supporting his model.

Some Quotes:

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever the cost.” – Arthur Ashe

“You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.” – John Knox

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time.” – M. Scott Peck

“It isn’t hard to be good from time to time in sports. What’s tough is being good every day.” – Willie Mays

“Make hay when the sun shines — that’s smart; Go fishing during the harvest — that’s stupid!” – Proverbs 10:5, MSG

“You can’t change where you started, but you can change the direction you are going. It’s not what you are going to do, but it’s what you are doing now that counts.” Napoleon Hill

One of the single best sections in the entire book is called Believe the Best — Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt. (Study done by Morton Hunt and published in Parade Magazine, 6 March 1988)

Fallacy: Trustful people are more gullible.
Fact: Trustful people are no more likely to be fooled than mistrustful ones.

Fallacy: Trustful people are less perceptive than mistrustful people of what others are really feeling.
Fact: People who scored high on trust are actually better than others at reading people.

Fallacy: People with a poor opinion of themselves are more
trustful than people with a good opinion of themselves.
Fact: The opposite is true. People with high self-esteem are more willing to take emotional risks.

Fallacy: Stupid people are trustful; smart people are mistrustful.
Fact: People with high aptitude or scholastic scores are no more mistrustful or skeptical than people judged to be less intelligent.

Fallacy: Trustful people rely on others to direct their lives for them; mistrustful people rely on themselves.
Fact: The opposite is true. People who feel controlled by outside persons and forces are more mistrustful, while those who feel in charge of their lives are more trustful.

Fallacy: Trustful people are no more trustworthy than mistrustful people.
Fact: Mistrustful people are less trustworthy. Research validates what the ancient Greeks used to say: “He who mistrusts most should be trusted least.”

I recommend buying this book rather than borrowing it, and internalizing the material on the Myths of Leadership and the Value of Leaders. The rest of the material would be great to have on hand, to refer to when necessary, but it is awfully kludgy to try and read and learn it all!

About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 6 February, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks. Let me know how it goes.

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