Book Review: Leadership Gold

Leadership Gold: Lessons Learned from a Lifetime of Leading, by John C. Maxwell

This book was given to me by a friend of mine who is very laconic and not the sort of person to explain himself, and so I was left with a mystery as to why this book was given to me. Was it given to me because he was done with it and did not want it to be read by others, or because he knew I devour books like boneless chicken wings? Who knows? At any rate, once I had the book, I decided to read it, as I am generally interested in the subject of leadership [1], even if John Maxwell’s books have invariably been a bit of a disappointment to me [2], given that they always come so highly recommended and tend to leave me wanting more.

To be sure, this book shares a lot of qualities with Maxwell’s body of work in general. This would include an approach that appears to blend an interest in moral and Christian ethics of a certain kind along with a pretty standard sort of approach to leadership that relies on stories as well as numbered principles [3]. There is also a certain sense of glibness in his tone that tends to make him less relatable to a reader, although this book does include a lot of lessons of fallibility. I am surprised, given some of his previous work, that the author did not eat more crow, given that the praise a previous book gave to the leadership of Enron was immensely foolish, a matter that appears to have been referred to obliquely and quietly in this book, but without naming the company directly, as an example of what can go wrong when you give influence away.

This is definitely not a book for the callowness of youth; it is a book that does honor youth when it is combined with wisdom but also evidence of the mellowing and reflective process that goes on for someone who is in the ironic position of being a writer but not much of a reflective person. The reflection and humility contained in this book, although it is not as much as I would prefer, is enough to soften the author’s rather glib tone so as to make this book a wise and worthwhile one in a variety of ways, in helping us understand who we are, face up to our weaknesses and admit them honestly, hone our strengths and use them to serve and connect with others, and leave this world a better place than it was when we found it, while recognizing that most of our problems are in the realm of our relationships and not our competence. It is not that these lessons are particularly original, but the stories used and the exercises contained therein help the principles stick. It is a bit lamentable that someone who was a pastor for 25 years does not seem to show a deep interest in speaking about scripture, or show a deep awareness of biblical principles, but that is fortunately not my problem to deal with. There is much to enjoy in this book, and much to reflect on, and a wise and discerning reader will do both.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] This particular book has 26 principles:

1. If it’s lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right.
2. The toughest person to lead is always yourself.
3. Defining moments define your leadership.
4. When you get kicked in the rear, you know you’re out in front.
5. Never work a day in your life.
6. The best leaders are listeners.
7. Get in the zone and stay there.
8. A leader’s first responsibility is to define reality.
9. To see how a leader is doing, look at the people.
10. Don’t send your ducks to eagle school.
11. Keep your mind on the main thing.
12. Your biggest mistake is not asking what mistake you’re making.
13. Don’t manage your time–manage your life.
14. Keep learning to keep leading.
15. Leaders distinguish themselves during tough times.
16. People quit people, not companies.
17. Experience is not the best teacher.
18. The secret to a good meeting is the meeting before the meeting.
19. Be a connector, not just a climber.
20. The choices you make, make you.
21. Influence should be loaned but never given.
22. For everything you gain, you give up something.
23. Those who start the journey with you seldom finish with you.
24. Few leaders are successful unless a lot of people want them to be.
25. You only get answers to the questions you ask.
26. People will summarize your life in one sentence–pick it now.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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