Book Review: Good Leaders Ask Great Questions

Good Leaders Ask Great Questions:  Your Foundation For Successful Leadership, by John C. Maxwell

There has seldom been an author I have read as much of [1] without liking very much in the way that has been the case for John C. Maxwell.  He often has numbered books of supposed rules or laws for leadership and success, and often comes off, at least to me, as a little bit untrustworthy.  Given that he writes so much about character and the approach that one should take to be successful, the fact that he seems a bit like a slimy used-car salesman on occasion detracts from my enjoyment of his writing.  It is just hard for me to take him seriously as a religious leader and as someone who really has the right insights when it comes to leadership.  The fact that he recycles so much of his material and tries to resell it under new titles and new brands also suggests to me that he is more about marketing himself than he is about really serving the best interests of readers who would want to know how to be both great and good.  At least his books are usually quick to read, though, and that is the case here.

This particular book is divided into two parts.  The first part, after acknowledgments, consists of three chapters on questions the author asks (I), including a justification of the importance of questions (1), as well as what questions he asks of himself (2) as well as of his team members (3).  The rest of the book consists of questions that other leaders ask the author (II) including how people lead themselves (4), how leadership works (5), how to get started in leadership (6), how to resolve conflict and lead challenging people (7), how to succeed under poor leadership (8), how to navigate leadership transitions (9), and how to develop other leaders (10).  After that there is a short conclusion as well as notes and an index.  The chapters are full of questions in bold and sidebars that help information and it is visually formatted, at least, to be easy to read and pleasing to the eyes.  If one cannot always trust the examples or the supposed insight of the author, at least one can trust the graphic design of the work to be easy enough to read and understand, and that counts for something at least.

This particular book was released in 2014, and one can tell this in part at least by the fact that the author has at least lessened his tendency in earlier books to namedrop famous and up and coming business leaders who would inevitably find themselves involved in some sort of scandal that would demand an airbrushing out of future editions of those books or changing the name of the book to sell it to a new and unsuspecting audience.  In the case of the author, there are great questions that can be asked that are of immense importance, but this book would have been better had the author asked more soul-searching questions of himself.  Given his fondness for questionable leadership (like that of Enron or GE, for example), and given his lack of deep spiritual insight, and the fact that he was made a leader very early in his career, while still a novice, and so he lacks a lot of experience in serving under others, there are plenty of tough questions I could ask him.  But if the author had been more soul-searching here, more inclined to ask questions of himself, more demonstrative of a struggle with self-doubt and a recognition of his own flaws, this book would have been a lot more authoritative.

[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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