John Maxwell, The 360 Degree Leader

If you are a leader in an organization, you should read this book. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a leader at the bottom or the top – or even if you’re so far down you’re just a leader wanna-be. After dealing with 7 “Leadership Myths” – most centering on the notion that leadership is dependent on achieving the right position in an organization – Maxwell presents a multitude of principles for leading up (influencing the leaders above you), leading across (influencing leaders on your level) and leading down.

As one who has pastored several churches and served as an associate in three congregations, I know first hand the challenges that come from leading form the middle (Maxwell’s first title for the book). When you’re in the middle you frequently find yourself in the place of having greater responsibility than power to do what needs to be done. Sometimes the leaders above you are so insecure they try to keep you from leading, perceiving anything you do right as a threat to their power. Sometimes they think they;re the only people who understand the field and try to micromanage you. Sometimes you find that the people below you (I’ve seen this in churches and can imagine it happens in other institutions as well) reckon you to be on the level of a go-fer, listening only to the Senior Pastor.

I’ve learned some good lessons as a leader in the middle. While working at FUMC in Fountain Valley, California (doing Youth & Education while pursuing a graduate degree full-time) I worked for John McFarland. Ten years older than me, twice my size (actually 6’7″ isn’t twice my size, but it seemed that way sometimes), and a raging extravert to my introverted personality, John demonstrated a deep passion for evangelism. As a leader he also practiced flexibility. He was secure enough as a leader to give me a job and then allow me to do it the way that fit with my skills and personality.

Later when I worked with J.D. Phillips at Westbury UMC in Houston, TX, I saw encouragement in action. I don’t know if I’ve ever known anyone who spoke as positively to the people around him as J.D. So many times we take the people around us for granted, never voicing words of appreciation. J.D. was a real model for me in this area.

If you’re a senior pastor this book will give you pointers for developing your people – both staff and volunteer. Reading the book will give you, if you don’t have it already, the conviction that you need strong leaders around you if you’re going to achieve your vision.

If your associate pastor or in a staff position this book will give you pointers for relating to everyperson in your organization while increasing your value to the team.

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