Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Practicing Greatness -- Reggie McNeal

Practicing Greatness is a good book for young leaders, but also for people like myself who have 25+ years of leadership experience behind them. For young leaders the book is an excellent guide ito becoming a great leader. For people like myself, who have been in leadership for a long time, it is a good book to take inventory of one's leadership and make the necessary adjustments to becoming a better leader. After reading the book, I think I have been a good leader -- not a great one. But, the book has also challenged me to aspire to becoming a great leader. I have a new determination to ibecoming the leader God has called me to be. I don't want to stay where I am, I want my last years in ministry to be my best.

What follows is an outline of the book as well as some of the key things he says.

. . . greatness begins with a clear vision that inspires people to get into the act of forgetting about themselves and committing to the greatest good.
- Ken Blanchard, from the Forward

. . . greatness in the kingdom of God is a journey toward humility. . . . Humility derives from the leader's awareness of where his or her source of strength lies . . . greatness in the spiritual world cannot be pursued without cultivating God-consciousness. . . . Jesus idea of greatness revolves around humility and service.

Great leaders bless people. . . . Great leaders help people be a part of something bigger than themselves. . . . great leaders leave people better off than they were before the leader entered their lives.

After introducing the book, McNeal goes on to describe 7 disciplines every leader must consciously and intentionally commit themselves to. McNeal also makes it clear that these disciplines are a process and that leaders need to be committed to these disciplines their entire lives.

1. The discipline of self-awareness is the most important because it protects leaders from being self-absorbed or merely role driven.

McNeal goes back to this discipline throughout the book. He also states that "family of origin" issues/lessons are the most important ones for a leader to deal with because they will spend the rest of their lives either building on or trying to overcome the lessons we have learned from our family of origin.

Another aspect McNeal focuses on is the idea of "the call". He believes that great leaders center their lives around their call, cannot be understood apart from their call, and have a relationship with God that is inextricably linked to the call.

McNeal concludes the chapter by stating that if leaders are not self-aware, they become hollow with no sense of self and work only from the expectations of others. The other option is that the leader becomes completely self-absorbed, so that everything is "about them".

2. The discipline of self-management acknowledges that great leaders must not only be great managers, but primarily and foremost they must manage their own emotions, expectations, temptations, mental vibrancy, and physical well-being. Leaders that fail to manage themselves are vulnerable to self-sabotage and/or derailment.

McNeal talks about most of the usual areas of self-management. The issues he raised that I appreciated the most were:

  • The importance of "muse time". Regular time to spend with God and to think about direction, strategy, calling, etc.
  • The importance of "emotional intelligence" -- the ability to work with people. McNeal believes only 1/3 of a leader's effectiveness is based on raw intelligence and technical expertise. 2/3 of a leaders effectivness is his/her ability to manage themselves and work with others.
  • The importance of managing money. Spiritual leaders hold attitudes toward and beliefs about money that color not only how they treat money but also their overall lifestyle and life choices.

3. The discipline of self-development is a life-long commitment to learning and growing and building on one's strengths. Great leaders NEVER STOP being curious and intentionally learning and building on their strengths. Unlearning the past is a key to learning in the future. Unlearning is harder the learning. The key to learning is becoming part of formal and informal learning networks of those effectively engaged in ministry and business.

McNeal also focuses on the importance of developing your strengths. Focus on your talent and develop it. One of the statements in the book that made an impact on me was this:

Our strengths are also our needs. . . . we each need to do what we do well. If we don't get a chance to perform in the area of our talents, we feel cheated, grow frustrated and court burnout.

Finally, McNeal gives some practical advice on how to learn from our failures.

4. The discipline of mission is the propensity of great leaders to give themselves to great causes. They order their lives missionally, and don't allow themselves to be hijacked by others' expectations and agendas, or dissapated by distractions that rob them of energy.

. . . leaders speak in terms of contribution, of significance, or changing the world. They don't work for an organization; the organization works for them. Their job, their role, their current assignment is the venue or platform from which they pursue their life mission. No matter what job they take or role they fill, they redefine the position to fit their mission, not the other way around. .. . the venue provides a platform for the leader to pursue a life mission. The venue is negotiable; the mission is non-negotiable.

This chapter reminded me of something Gary Edmonds once said to me. Leaders have a PASSION, they need a PLATFORM and then they need to figure out how to PAY for it all. I think Gary and Reggie are correct.

The focus of this chapter is about your central life purpose and how to cultivate it. Overall, an excellent chapter.

5. The discipline of decision-making is the ability of great leaders to know how to make decisions, when to make decisions, and what decisions need to be made. In this chapter McNeal focuses on the ability to ask the right questions, to listen to the right people, to collect the right information, and to use this to make the right decisions.

6. The discipline of belonging characterizes great leaders to nurture relationships and to live in community with others, including family, followers, mentors, and friends.

McNeal gives good practical advice on belonging to your family (family of origin, spouse, children), belonging to your co-workers (and your responsibilities to them), the importance of authenticity and relationships and mentoring (both being a mentor and learning from others)

7. The discipline of aloneness is the leaders' capacity to endure the loneliness of leadership but to intentionally practice solitude with God.

Overall I found this book to be very helpful. It may be because of where I am at in my life and ministry, the things I have been thinking about over the past several months, and what I have been feeling and sensing from God. I know that as I prayerfully read this book, God has challenged me to take some concrete actions. Some I have already taken. Others will follow in the next few weeks. I have been encouraged that some of the things I have been doing are on the right track. Other things I have to incorporate into my life in new and more intentional ways.

Read the book -- it will do your soul good!


SocietyVs said...

I really enjoy the blog and what attributes a leader should possess...I generally agree with the assumptions laid down.
As far as practicing greatness, there is no such thing...I personally think greatness is something we need not be concerned only leads to reinforcing a structure where people put their faith in the great leader, not God.
Still I like the book and there are tidbits that can be gleamed from it, nice post.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Hi thеre! Ι know this iѕ κindа off
topіc however , Ι'd figured I'd ask.

Wоuld you be іntеrested in еxchanging linκѕ
oг maybe guest authorіng a blοg post or vice-versa?
My ωebѕite discusseѕ a lot of
thе ѕаme subjесts аѕ yοurs and I belіеve we cοulԁ greatlу
benefit from еach other. Ιf you might bе іnterestеd feel free
to shοоt me an email. I look fοrward to hеaring fгom yоu!
Great blοg by the wаy!

Hеre is my page; national debt relief review