Name of the book: What Makes A Leader Great: Discover the One Key That Makes the Difference
Author: Russ Crosson
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Place of publishing: Eugene, Oregon
Year of publishing: 2014
Reviewed by: J.N. Manokaran
Russ Crosson is the CEO of Ronald Blue & Co, a finance firm operating in over 13 states in US. He has written a very practical book on leadership, deriving from the Scripture and his own experience. The short book has many valuable insights that could transform a leader.
The author begins the book with an assertion that ‘Each one of us is a leader.’ The theme of the book is: “We lead in order to replace ourselves.” (p.11) When investment is on future leaders, existing leaders bring exponential growth. The best leaders were those who got the job done.
“Success and leadership were tied to a person’s abilities and work ethic.” (p.18) The author vividly explains how he got demoted for lack of relational skills, though he had other qualities like intelligence, and other skills. During that time, he learns humility and importance of relationships and was prepared rather humbled by God. For the author, leadership is not glamorous but a call to humility and humility is a choice. Later, he becomes the CEO of the same company.
“While reading through the Old Testament, I gained a deeper understanding of a very simple truth: people who find themselves in leadership roles have been placed there by God and not by themselves.” (p.25) Humans are created from dirt, this realization helps a leader to understand his/her limitations and need for dependence on God, for strength, wisdom, patience and courage.
“Leadership means learning to consider those under us more than we consider ourselves.” (p.26) Ego has to be rooted out to be an effective leaders. Consideration for others mean to train and develop others as leaders.
Leaders should build followers not fans. “Fans are enthusiastic and challenged by the leader’s vision, but they have not made the switch to being supporters and advocates of the mission.” (p.33) Life is short and our goal is to leave a legacy. Lord Jesus is a great model: “First, Jesus passion for his mission was unparalleled and uncompromised. Second, He lived a life of sacrifice to accomplish his mission.” (p.37) In fact, leaders with vision, goals and passion draw others to themselves as followers. The author calls for sacrifice and giving, as giving money breaks the power of money.
“Delegation, by definition, is ‘letting someone else do what we’ve been doing.'” (p.47) “Leadership focused on control stifles the next generation and retards their growth.” (p.48) “I knew if I lost key people it would be difficult to keep the company’s mission fire burning. I would run the risk of ending up with a pile of cooling embers instead of a vibrant message.” (p.50-51) “A great leader hires people more gifted and talented than he or she is.” (p.54)
“Great leadership is characterized by two things: First, a willingness to allow others to identify the leader’s opportunities to grow and, second, a commitment by the leader to help followers develop their unrealized potential.” (p.60) Terrific ‘followership’ is evident when a leader does not have ‘yes’ employees, but people who speak the truth and have better talents and abilities than the leader himself.
Characteristics of Great leaders: Passionate, Tenacious, Enthusiastic, Single-mindedness (Phil 3:13), Avoids entanglement (II Timothy 2:4), Follows God’s principle (II timothy 2:5), works hard (II Timothy 2:6), Travels Light (Acts 28:30), continues to the end (II Timothy 3:14) and consistent and constant (Acts 17:17) Go anywhere, anytime, to anyone mindset is needed for leaders.
“‘Big picture’ thinkers have the ability and the intellectual capacity to see ambiguous, complex, non-quantifiable situation from a broader view or in a broader context than the one in which they work on a daily basis.” (p,78) Leaders with big picture are curious about subjects outside their expertise and work in interdisciplinary teams. Leaders are readers.”Solid thinkers are proficient in at thinking analytically, and thinking creatively and intuitively, which gives them the ability to understand how things actually work within the organization and the pace at which change can be managed and new ideas implemented. In other words, solid thinking takes the ethereal and nebulous and make it concrete and doable.” (p.82) “Strategic thinking is good, strategic planning is better, but strategic action is best.” (p.87)
Followers seek to be one step ahead of bosses. Many time author’s assistant has made an appointment or scheduled something without him having to ask. The more they get these ahead of the author, the more he trusts them. This trait of ‘Anticipatory Fellowship’ is one of the quickest paths to more responsibility and subsequent leadership. Terrific followers exceed expectation.
“Developing influence is a huge part of becoming a strong leader. Influence is a function of competence, authority, personality, character, experience, maturity, trustworthiness and interpersonal skills. It also includes ethically using authority.” (p.93-94) “Relational equity, global thinking, and political savvy to navigate company politics are also necessary to develop the influence needed to become an effective leader.” (p.95)
“In my experience that for most people the vocational environment is a prime training ground God uses to teach us and make us more usable. For too often people miss these prime opportunities to grow by leaving difficult environment too quickly.” (p.98) “Choosing to leave before learning what God wants you to learn only means you’ll likely go somewhere else and start the process all over again.” (p.98) Good learners understand the what, where, and how of the work and are trusted to do it independently. Such emerging leaders gain confidence in their competence; respect for their character by demonstrating a high level of integrity daily.and rapport with superiors by making an effort to connect or build a relationship with him or her. There are behaviours great followers avoid: telling the manager about the problems without proffering solutions; continually waiting to be told what to do; plopping problems on the manager’s desk for him or her to handle. Leadership development secret is: Learn new skills, Unlearn bad habits, and practice, practice and practice
All leaders should Be a coach: Coach as counselor, Teacher, Trainer, Consultant and Mentor (p.110-114) “Well-rounded leadership means teams need individuals with different perspectives, view points, life experiences, and ways of thinking. Its highly likely that your potential leadership pool has a lot of different folks with unique personalities, temperaments, wiring, and backgrounds. They are male and female.” (p.115)
The author also provides his practical experience in developing leaders in his company by having a development program. He also explains how senior leaders were encouraged not to hold position but continue to serve the company as sages.
This book is a timely guidebook for all leaders. Christian leaders could be benefitted by reading this book and also following many principles explained par excellence. A must for the study of pastors and Christian leaders.