All good books of this sort must begin by confronting an unquestioned premise. The premise confronted in this book is that authority and opportunity are tied together. For example, you are a leader when you are in a leadership position and only then. How this plays out is that most men & women lead lives of quiet desperation, routinely ridiculing everyone in power, pining away until the day they can get in power and set the world right.
This books starts by stating that that premise is wrong. Title and position do not bestow leadership. This should be as clear as day to anyone who has had an ineffective boss. Instead, leadership comes through influence and influence comes through serving others. It comes from loving others as you love yourself, with love being defined as wanting what is best for the person, not what they want.
That’s a really important distinction. I’ve spent most of the last 10 years waiting for an opportunity to lead. My definition of leading is to be in a position where people report to me. That has not happened, and therefore, I don’t consider myself a leader. But I am a husband. I’m a father. I have a number of clients. I can choose to be passive in those relationships or lead by serving.
The most striking concept for me in this book is when the author Clay Scroggins says that “waiting did not make me more of a leader; it made me less of a leader.” My assumption is that once I am finally in a leadership position, I’ll finally get to show my stuff. He shoots that down in that sentence. In fact, by not practicing leadership through service in my current setting, I am losing the leadership muscle. I’m not somehow gaining it. Clay says it starts with leading myself – learning, growing, serving. And it shows in how I serve those closest to me right now. It starts right here, right now.
This was an immensely helpful book. Some books are full of mindset principles and others with on-the-ground practical application. This book had both. Clay is a pastor and he refers most of the practical applications to Biblical principles. Here was a neat quote towards the end that summed up a lot of the book’s content:
…it wasn’t the authority Jesus possessed that made him a great leader. It was his influence over the minds and hearts of people, influence cultivated by speaking truth and challenging the status quo, by serving others, by healing people and meeting their needs. It was an influence cultivated by giving people hope and vision for the future. Ultimately, it was influence earned by demonstrating the depth of his love for people, by sacrificing himself on their behalf. That’s leadership. And it’s our job to emulate his example.