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4.28.2016

"The Most Excellent Way to Lead", by Perry Noble (book review)


Countless books abound on the topic of leadership.  Many are good, and some are ok.  But still others are great, and well worth the time to take in all the wisdom they contain.  “The Most Excellent Way to Lead” is one of the great ones, in my opinion.

Using personal, humorous anecdotes, Perry Noble wittily and winsomely constructs what could have been another bland leadership primer into something far more enjoyable.  The leadership principles contained within Noble’s book are based on what is often referred to as the Bible’s “Love Chapter”: First Corinthians 13. Each theme within that passage (love is patient, love is kind, etc.) serves as the springboard for each of this book’s chapters.  The premise is that leadership must be based on love, and love is given various descriptors in the Bible. Therefore, lead out of love for people.

LIKES: 

1) I appreciated the many challenges Noble presented throughout the book.  I often reflected on my own life as I read, thinking, “I don’t do that very well.” Or “I need to be more mindful of this.”  While I was reading this book, I also happened to attend a one-day leadership workshop with a few men from the church to which I belong.  Some similar comments from within the workshop experience coincided with the principles Noble raised to the forefront of my thoughts.  This was a positive experience because both contexts served to drive the points home that needed my attention as a person and as a leader.

2) The statement that MOST impacted me from the entire book is this: “The way we think about other people is the launching pad for how we lead with our actions” (p.151).  As an informal leader, I often struggle with this because I easily grow impatient with people.  I have high expectations for myself, as well as high expectations for those on the team under my care.  I have the tendency to automatically think pessimistically in certain situations, rather than giving others the benefit of the doubt.  When I think that way, I react (even overreact) in a way that is not always effective.  I have been reminded to straighten myself up because, as Noble wrote in the introduction, “…the best leaders don’t have titles, but they do have a voice people want to listen to” (p. xiii).   Rather than negative, I must consciously double my efforts to insure my voice is winsome instead.

Overall, I was very pleased with this book.  It’s one I’ll keep on my bookshelf for future reference, reminder, and encouragement.  So my following comments must be weighed within the context of understanding that I truly liked this book, but have just a couple beefs with it.

DISLIKES: 

1) While I understand this book was not intended to be a theological treatise, I was disappointed that Noble, in one part especially, reduced Jesus to simply having been “the best leader ever”.  Now, to be fair, Noble included a section at the end of the book regarding what sin and salvation truly are, and there was a spattering of the gospel throughout the book.  However, Noble cited Jesus’s willingness to “lay down his life” for his people (p.93 and all of chapter 7), but then skipped the TRUE meaning behind that biblical statement within the chapter itself, and instead exchanged it for a mere leadership principle.  It was a good time for him to lay out the gospel message, rather than glossing over it.  As if we are on the same level as Jesus, Noble equated us as leaders as being called to “serve and sacrifice” just as Jesus did.  While Jesus was indeed a leader on earth, he’s so much more than that!  We cannot – at the expense of who Jesus is in all his glory – neglect the fact that he is the Savior of all sinners who would come to him in repentance.  I’m not suggesting that anyone who writes a leadership book should never refer to Jesus, but to cite passages from the Bible and not explain the gospel is dangerous.

2) Noble wrote of a conversation he once had with a friend, who offered: “Words don’t have meanings; people have meanings” (p.2).  While I understand what the friend – and, in turn, Noble – meant by the phrase (lead by loving people within their contexts and situations), I fear leadership principles can become cute little phrases that we insert into daily planners if we’re not careful.  This simple phrase doesn’t really make sense, when one looks at it a little closer.  After all, aren’t words and their meanings the entire reason Noble wrote the book in the first place?  He’s trying to convince us WITH WORDS that these leadership principles work.  Ironically, aren’t words and their meanings the reasons why his friend was able to SAY “words don’t have meanings”?  Whenever reading any book, we as readers need to be careful not to swallow every clever phrase without actually chewing on it first, because words – in fact – DO have meaning.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be reading the book.

RATING: I give “The Most Excellent Way to Lead” 4 stars out of 5.  It was very well done, and it’s one you ought to consider reading for your edification or leadership book club.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from the Tyndale Blog Network.  All opinions are mine, and I was not obligated to write a positive review for this book.

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