A Failure of Nerve

7 12 2015

A Failure of NerveThe book you see above this post is simply the best book on leadership that I have ever read.  Ever.

I read a lot.  A great deal of what I read devolves in some way upon leadership–autobiography, biography, leadership as art and craft, critical leadership arenas, failures of leadership and so forth.  This is a rich field as there are so many great authors and leaders.  The usual suspects: Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs, Douglas MacArthur, John Maxwell, Seth Godin, Warren Bennis and political leaders ad infinitum.  I’m sure you could assemble your own list of leaders and leadership mavens and their writings.  (Matter of fact, please load up the combox with your suggestions!)

Edwin Friedman was a rabbi and therapist who did most of his work in and around Washington, D.C. up until his death in 1996.  The strength of his work (his entire corpus comprises five volumes, two of which were published posthumously) is that leadership is ultimately a function of the leader himself/herself (hereafter his/him for the sake of brevity).

A Failure of Leadership gets at the essence of good leadership.  The focus of this book is on a leader’s self-leadership, rather than leadership techniques, punch lists, alliterations and the like.   The leader sets the tone in any environment by 1) maintaining a non-anxious presence in the midst of anxious and emotional people, whether family, congregation, business or government and 2) practicing his own inner leadership as a self-differentiated individual; that is, one who is clear about his goals, vision, purpose and values and is able to hold to them in a steady way, especially when times are tumultuous and the tendency to herd rears its head and threatens to pull him into its toxic vortex.  The self-differentiated leader is moved by reason–namely, his goals and values–rather than emotional current.

There is so much more to this book in general and Friedman’s work in particular that we will explore in future writings.  Topics such as orienting towards adventure rather than safety, focusing on personal responsibility and challenge and not simply “feeling another’s pain” (empathy).  Fodder for later posts.

Buy this book.  He wrote it during the Bush (41) and Clinton years–years in which he described our country and culture as anxious and stuck.  One can only imagine his response to our own times with the challenges of the post 9/11 world and ubiquitous social media which, at best, is a mixed blessing.

Stick around.  There’s more!

Further reading:

Friedman’s Fables

Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue

The Myth of the Shiksa and Other Essays

What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? Unpublished Writings and Diaries
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John Maxwell: A Leader of Leaders

13 02 2012

This evening I took my wife of nearly twenty-four years out for dinner at our favorite restaurant.  Tomorrow is, after all, Valentine’s Day.  On the docket for tomorrow evening: A concert.

After dinner we stopped by our area Target store to pick up a few things.  Among them was the latest issue of SUCCESS® magazine.  I was excited to see that one of the features on the enclosed CD was an interview with leadership expert John Maxwell.

John has quite a history that has brought him to the place he is now, an internationally respected leader of leaders.  He’s published in excess of sixty works.  Go into any Barnes & Noble bookstore and you’ll find a dozen or so Maxwell titles in the leadership section.

How did John come to the place of influence he now enjoys?

When he was a young pastor in his twenties, he had a vision for building a great church to honor God and help people.  This was the mid ‘70’s.  At that time, John would arrange family vacations to visit cities around the country where the most prominent churches had been established.  John would call ahead and ask to speak with the senior pastor of these churches and say, “I’m a young pastor who wants to build a great church for God.  I will pay you $100.00 if you will give me an hour of your time.”  You have to be the minister of a small church, forty years ago, to appreciate that $100.00 was an enormous amount of money to invest this way.

Invariably, the pastor would accept the offer.  John would go in and meet with the man and when one hour was up, John would promptly rise to leave.  The pastor usually refused the money and always took John out for lunch.  When they returned, John would thank the man, return to his car, place his head on the steering wheel and cry like a baby, praying to God to help him build a great church.  He eventually grew Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego to considerable size and influence before moving on to Atlanta to focus on training leaders for the balance of his life.

Many years ago, I worked alongside a leader who nurtured his own leadership skills by listening to John Maxwell’s leadership recordings, delivered every month from INJOY®, his Atlanta-based leadership training organization.  It was during this period that I began reading and listening to John Maxwell.  I don’t regret it a bit.

Here are some tips on improving your leadership gifts from Maxwell:

  • Never leave home without a book in hand.  John’s father taught him from childhood always to keep a book in the glovebox of his car and would pay his son for books read.  Father knew that readers are leaders and inculcated this into his son.
  • Be willing to pay the cost to learn from the best.  John’s early willingness to sacrifice his hard earned cash to talk to those who’ve produced great works has paid off richly.  Books, seminars and personal meetings will more than return your monetary investment if you act on what you’ve learned.
  • People are your work.  Quoting another leader, John often said, “A leader without followers is merely taking a walk.”  Those directly tutored by John learned very quickly that people are the focus of a leader’s life and work.  Dan Reiland and Dr. Jim Garlow are just two noted leaders thus trained by John.

Maxwell matters.  His books are teeming with practical tips and inspiration that will hold you in good stead and help you move to the next level.  Buy them.

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Crafting A Life

30 12 2011

I heard a challenge today.  If you invest 3% of your annual earnings into self-development, your earning potential, if acted upon, can increase exponentially.

It hijacked my attention very quickly.

Story was told of a young man, 23, who begin investing 3% of his annual income in materials that would help him improve in his career.  The first year he went from making $20,000.00 to $30,000.00.  While he began investing 3%, after a few years he began investing 10% of his earnings in self-development.  Books, audio/visual materials, seminars, etc.  After 10 years he was making $1,000,000.00.

A million dollars a year.

If you will take the time and develop your skills, your earning potential will increase.  On average, for every hour Americans spend on education and self-development, they spend 50 hours on entertainment in one form or another.  Begin reversing this ratio and you will upend your life for the better.

Here are some tools that will help you craft a career.  And a life too:

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else (Geoff Colvin) – This book effectively dispels the myth that people like Mozart were born to write music and Tiger Woods to play golf.  Both these luminaries, and others so profiled, got where they were through years of hard work and deliberate practice.

The Success Principles: How To Get From Where You Are To Where You Want to Be (Jack Canfield) – With chapters like “Success Leaves Clues” and “Commit To Constant And Never-Ending Improvement” you won’t go wrong with this read.  Canfield, co-author of the hugely popular Chicken Soup For The Soul series, gets it right every time.  Practical and down-to-earth.

The Magic of Thinking Big (David Schwartz) – A great book.  Dr. Schwartz effectively demonstrates the difference between winners and losers: What one thinks about.  Good thinking will launch you.  Poor thinking will weaken you.

Twelve Pillars (Jim Rohn & Chris Widener) – I read this in an afternoon this past summer.  This is a parable illustrating basic truths, which followed, will improve your career and your life.  Short, but potent.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (John Maxwell) – An ace on leadership, this book should be in the library of every leader.  Maxwell, who has written countless books on leadership, boils leadership down effectively to 21 principles.  Buy it.  I had the privilege of seeing John speak on the tour that promoted this book in 1999.  Outstanding.  The chapter on “The Law of Influence” alone is worth the price of the book.

Have at it.  2012 is your year.