Leadership With A Servant’s Heart: Leading Through Personal Relationships, by Kevin Wayne Johnson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by ReesdyDiscovery in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Is this author a Christian author who happens to enjoy the business world to a large degree or is he a business consultant with some biblical knowledge and a Christian identity? The answer that the reader provides to this question will determine how the book is viewed. As a reader, I thought that the author was the second kind of person but thought he was the first, and that is an easy mistake for people to make. If you take John Maxwell’s fondness for deeply flawed corporate leadership and add to it a strong interest in the leftist politics of the SPLC as well as some TDS, the end result is what this author provides. Some readers will appreciate this, and other readers will not. The author’s biblical exegesis is superficial, but the book has a strong focus on servant leadership that will be appealing to a great many who are fond of or want to be fond of the body of leadership that exists to encourage leaders to be less authoritarian in their approach.
This book is between 200 and 250 pages and is divided into three parts. After an introduction and overview and foreword, the first part of the book discusses serving others as the key to servant leadership. This part of the book contains chapters in focusing on the golden rule and recognizing that leading is about others and not about oneself (1), understanding how one makes others feel (2), and how to celebrate the potential of other people and build better relationships with them (3). The second part of the book discusses the goal of servant leadership in inspiring others, with chapters on the importance of influence and impact through persuasion and respect (4), the importance of being a leader who inspires (5), and the vital aspect of being a compassionate leader (6) who recognizes that messages are filtered through messengers. The third part of the book then discusses the result of servant leadership in leading others, with chapters discussing the need to lead with passion (7), the importance of leading to equip others (8) with the proper skills to move to a higher level, and passing the baton (9) as one models good leadership and develops good leaders. After this there is a reader’s guide, questions and topics for discussion, a selected bibliography and recommended reading, and information about the author.
The author spells out his desired demographic in a way that would make any social gospel Christian proud, focusing on Boomers and Gen-Xers who, in the author’s words, “acknowledge a deficiency in their servant leadership acumen and in their reliance upon their faith in God.” Unfortunately, it is the author’s own deficiencies, not least deficiencies in fair-mindedness and graciousness towards his audience, that make this book a harder sell than the author thinks it is. To the extent that the author provides useful information about research into servant leadership and its effectiveness, the book can be easily enjoyed and appreciated. To the extent that the author thinks of himself as a model of the sort of behaviors as a leader that the reader should aspire to emulate, the book is far less enjoyable and sometimes quite self-centered. As is common with business consulting books of this stripe, the author talks a game about vulnerability and humility but ends up walking the walk of self-centered pride and egocentrism that demonstrates the tension between the desire to relate to the audience and the desire to overawe them with demonstrations of the greatness and competence of the writer, with the latter desire frequently winning out. Still, the wise and discerning reader will learn the information, seek a less arrogant mentor to practice servant leadership from, and appreciate such insights as can be found in a book, even one that fails to account for the moral failings that doomed Jack Welch’s GE and other institutions.