Book Review: The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs

The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs, by John Maxwell

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

As I started to read this book, and looked at the table of contents, I felt a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Mind you, this happens often in my life, but it led me to look at what similarities this book had with other books by the same author I have read and reviewed in the past [1]. The fact that this book included 26 principles, at least one of which has been the subject of my own personal reflection [2], led me to discover that this book had indeed been previously published as Leadership Gold, which I was given by some close friends of mine, which sits on my bookshelf even as I write this, and which I gave a mostly positive review of, with some criticisms. In looking at this book again, albeit with less detail than before, seeing as it was a review of already familiar material, my thoughts on the book as a whole have not changed, nor do I feel it necessary to go into the same sort of detail that I previously wrote about in my review of the original book.

Nevertheless, there are a few features of this book that are particularly relevant. The book appears primarily aimed toward young leaders just starting out or more experienced leaders who are serving as mentors of young leaders, and seeks to distill the unsystematic personal leadership wisdom of one John Maxwell in a form that catches attention and encourages thoughtful behavior. The author explicitly instructs his audience to take this book as a secular devotional, with one week devoted to each lesson for young leaders and two weeks devoted to each lesson for mentors, with the end result being a six-month or twelve-month period of study and application. Generally, as Maxwell’s ideas are worthy of reflection and his use of imagery is striking and often picturesque, this would appear to be a worthwhile approach for those readers who wish to take the time to read this book as the author wishes.

Whether this book needs to be in your library depends on a few factors. If you already have purchased or received Leadership Gold as a gift, this book would appear to be largely redundant and unnecessary. If you are new to reading John Maxwell’s books, this book is a fair sample of his approach to leadership in numbered laws, a focus on gaining insight from personal experience, and a lack of interest in systematic data collection or biblical citations. This book, like his writing in general, suffers a tension between the author’s desire to consider himself a credible authority on leadership and his simultaneous desire to be vulnerable and admit his own occasional fallibility in a way that is nevertheless not threatening to his credibility and expertise. If you know his body of work as a whole, you know you will get thoughtfully written material in numbered lists that reflects Maxwell’s personal experience. That is generally enough to be instructed and occasionally amused and sometimes even moved.

[1] See, for example:


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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