After selling fistfuls of Ken Blanchard's co-authored runaway bestseller THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER when I ran a bookstore in the 1980s, I was curious to see what he had to say in LEAD LIKE JESUS. Since the wildly popular ONE MINUTE MANAGER, Blanchard had pumped out a prolific number of general market business books. After becoming a Christian, this one evinces how it affects his writing and his business/life philosophy.
Getting started: Blanchard and Phil Hodges encourage readers to ask themselves three key questions: Am I a leader? Am I willing to follow Jesus as my leadership role model? How do I lead like Jesus?
Perhaps this is a good time to define what the authors mean by "leader." Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behavior or development of people toward accomplishing a goal in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a "leader," they write. In other words, you don't have to be in business to benefit from this book. You might be a parent, a teacher, a nurse, a pastor, a coach, or an adult child helping her aging parents. There are differences between being a "life leader" (such as a parent) and an organizational leader (a manager in a company).
Leaders are defined by how they use their influence, they say. If our instincts are self-promotion and self-protection, then we'll use our influence to fulfill these needs. (Self-interest, they believe, is the most difficult obstacle we face in leading like Jesus). Conversely, if we are driven by service and dedication to a cause or a relationship, then we will model and encourage these values in others. They look at four domains of leading like Jesus --- head, heart, hands and habits --- and carefully unpack each one.
For those business book readers who enjoy charts and diagrams, there are a few here that might appeal (although I didn't find them particularly useful). Occasionally there's a trite phrase that makes you wince ("By seeking to serve rather than be served as I lead others, I will make Jesus smile") or a very bad pun ("Altaring" Your Leadership Ego). But these weak points are few in an otherwise strong book.
The best moments are when the authors get practical rather than theoretical. Jesus welcomed disagreement and wasn't afraid of it. (Do you welcome feedback? Find someone who will tell you the truth!) Address your own credibility as an individual before trying to improve things at an organizational level. (Is your security based on what others think?) Have you planned for a successor in your job? (Does that seem threatening?) There's an excellent section on identifying pride and fear, and how it affects our ability to lead. Indeed, the examples of how pride and fear influence leadership are among the best parts of the book.
Also helpful: a practical chart showing the four learning stages (novice, apprentice, journeyman, and master/teacher) and obstacles to success in each. There's specific help; rather than just telling readers to get into an accountability group, the authors offer a specific model of what this would look like. Chapter end summaries, personal and fictional examples that flesh out the concepts, and invitations to reflect on various key points will aid in engaging more fully with and applying the material. ("List three things that are most likely to pull you off course.")
Both authors also state "rank-ordered values" for leading like Jesus. Honor God in everything you do. Build relationships based on trust and respect. Maintain integrity and excellence in programs and services. Practice responsible stewardship.
The book is just the tip of the leadership iceberg, so it seems. Blanchard and Hodges have co-founded the Center for FaithWalk Leadership to teach the concepts to churches and organizations. According to their publisher, there's also a Lead Like Jesus "movement" complete with a 2005 winter simulcast featuring leadership experts such as Laurie Beth Jones, Rick Warren, Dan Cathy, Don Soderquist, Bill Pollard, Mickey Blackwell and Rosey Grier.
This is a meaty book that should be studied over a period of time rather than skimmed at a single reading. The concepts, if applied, could change the way leaders view their work, their relationships and their lives.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.