Book Review: The Complete 101 Collection

The Complete 101 Collection: What Every Leader Needs To Know: Attitude, Self-Improvement, Leadership, Relationships, Success, Teamwork, Equipping, and Mentoring, by John C. Maxwell

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

In a book as large as this one, it is worth discussing the best parts of it first. Made up of eight smaller texts averaging about 75 pages apiece, this book is a fundamental and very basic look at different and important aspects of leadership from someone whose books I have often read [1] and it follows along the lines of what I have read from him before. If you like his approach, you will probably find something of value in this book. Each of its eight topics are devoted to at least a slightly different facet of leadership (in order): attitude, self-improvement, leadership, relationships, success, teamwork, equipping, and mentoring. Some of it mirrors my own thoughts and reflections, and none of it is particularly surprising. The author includes a mostly familiar set of examples, a few from the scriptures, more from history, and quite a lot from contemporary business theory and practice. Many of the principles here are in numbered patterns, as ought to be expected from the author. One of the surprises, at least for me, was the fact that this book includes an immensely beautiful poem that was apparently written by Mr. Maxwell himself (208):

“My Influence

My life shall touch a dozen lives
Before this day is done.
Leave countless marks of good or ill,
E’er sets the evening sun.

This, the prayer I always wish,
The prayer I always pray:
Lord, may my life help other lives
It touches by the way.”

Having discussed the best aspects of this book, let us turn to some minor annoyances. For one, this book is about 600 pages long, and it contains about 300 to 400 pages of decent original material. It is not recommended for someone to read this book in one fell swoop, as there is a lot of repetition, to the level of pages and even chapters being identical from one section of this book to another. The fact that there is significant overlap between some of these basic facts does not help matters. One may only remember a small fraction of what one reads, but when the exact same concepts are repeated several times in the same precise language and structure, one wonders exactly how much original thought and reflection went into the creation of the original eight 101 lessons, or how much went into the compilation of this book, which shows no evidence of being updated at all. This is the second book in a row from John Maxwell that has shown evidence of extreme laziness in presentation. I hope this is not a trend to keep a cash cow going as long as it lasts, as he is rapidly losing my own goodwill as a reader.

There is yet more serious difficulties with this book. Often, the author cites his own years in the ministry as a success based on the number of people who were in his congregation (a measurement he uses to judge the success of other ministers as well), and yet this book shows almost no evidence of any deep spiritual leanings, any understanding of the biblical view of leadership whatsoever, a striking omission from someone who had been involved in ministry for more than two decades. This book includes a great deal of “wisdom” that is contrary to scripture, such as the story of a greedy bear, but few biblical examples and no evidence of a genuinely godly approach to leadership. Also, there are some contradictions in the way this book claims that influence rather than position is the true mark of a leader, but consistently looks at title as the foundation and starting point for the development of a leader. It does not appear as if Mr. Maxwell conceives of a way in which people would develop character and influence by virtue of their competence and personality before being given official leadership titles. For all of the talk he makes about paying dues, the author seems to assume that a leader is going to be in a leadership position before ever having deserved it or prepared for it, and will be learning on the job and relying on the goodwill of higher leaders to recognize and reward potential before it is proven. Finding leaders willing to give such leadership opportunities to young and relatively unproven people is not an easy task. It is a pity that Mr. Maxwell has not turned his attention to being a gracious follower, given that only a few people have the titles of leaders, and all have to learn how to handle authority over them, a task that is far more difficult than the sparse record of books devoted to it would indicate. That is, though, the subject of another book, which will have to be written by someone else.

[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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