By John C. Maxwell; New York, NY: Hachette Book Group (2014); Reviewed by PAUL WILMOT
Ever wish you had the opportunity to sit down with leaders who have been through the mill and who have learned leadership lessons in the cauldron of life? In Learning From the Giants, John C. Maxwell simulates this experience by speaking to the heart of the aspiring leader who would appreciate a few hours with several of the biblical giants of the faith. His purpose is to ascertain what these leaders of old considered to be important leadership qualities, together with the life and leadership lessons that they would wish to pass on to us.
Maxwell claims that what he has learned about leadership has the Bible as its source—an interesting assertion for a widely recognized leadership thinker, prolific author, and speaker—thus making this book a summary of his leadership learning over more than 50 years. He allows nine giants of the faith (Elijah, Elisha, Job, Jacob, Deborah, Isaiah, Jonah, Joshua, and Daniel) to briefly become our mentors, tell us about their history and experience, and share what they have learned that will prove beneficial.
The various giants are interviewed in an informal setting, making the interaction with them seem like a casual conversation in your living room. This helps to build a relationship with the individual being interviewed.
Direct scriptural support is provided to facilitate ongoing personal study of these leaders, allowing for extended exploration of the lives of these mentors to see tangible examples of where the lessons were learned. Working from the assumption that we still experience similar challenges and therefore will benefit from applying these lessons today, Maxwell helps us to explore a combination of life and leadership lessons. As we learn, we recognize that the life lessons we learn not only prepare us for leadership but also allow us to better appreciate the consequences and the life experiences of those we lead.
An important feature of this book is the practical application to the reader: leaders’ life situations are addressed by reviewing personal challenges and comparing them to the experiences of the giants. This proves to be an encouragement to work through personal issues that will demonstrate the benefit of applying the lessons shared. Excellent discussion questions designed for use in personal reflection and in facilitating leadership development discussions extend the practical and personal benefit.
God uses each leader’s unique gifts and competencies to address human and organizational needs in a specific context. All leaders need to embrace the importance of vision and purpose that comes from listening to the voice of God and appreciate their role in achieving leadership goals. Maxwell further affirms that leaders are best prepared by an encounter with God. There is some risk in exploring deeper personal issues without the presence of a coach and mentor to either support the examination or to direct the reader to appropriate resources for further assistance. Therefore, this book would best be applied in the context of an ongoing supportive conversation with such a person.
Maxwell’s book is as worthwhile for experienced leaders who continue to assess their personal growth and development as it would be for the novice leader. We all face times when we feel that we are not making an impact, or even that we are a failure. It is helpful to see recognized successful leaders of the past as ones having faced the same leadership demons. God is not surprised by our performance as he knows the outcome before we even commence. Learning From the Giants encourages leaders to pay attention to a lifestyle that is characterized by integrity and dependence on God’s presence and power to accomplish the essential goals set before us.
Paul Wilmot is a Senior Information Technology Systems Management Trainer and consultant for Hewlett-Packard Corporation in Allen, Texas. He serves as a lay leader at Living Waters Worship Center in Duncanville, Texas.