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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"Lead Vertically" (Craig Johnson)

TITLE: Lead Vertically: Inspire People to Volunteer and Build Great Teams that Last
AUTHOR: Craig Johnson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010, (224 pages).

Dream big. Walk tall. Lead vertical. In an inspiring book on how to lead teams, author Craig Johnson brings together his wealth of knowledge and experience about what it means to lead with inspiration. Just like the verse in Ps 61:2, where David prayed to the LORD to lead him to the rock that is higher, Johnson believes that vertical leading is about letting God help us take the ministry to a higher level in God's perspective. Leading vertically is looking up to God to lead from God's perspective, and leading people toward God in the hope that they too can do the same.

Vertical leadership begins with God. It is not just about recognizing the best people but also the best in people. It is cultivating the childlikeness in each person and to impact that person positively even as that person seems to be deep in their trenches. There is a strong belief that God is doing something amazing in the person's life. This means not just planting but knowing how to plant. One inspires others by being a model of hope, building on dreams, and learning constructive criticism that builds up instead of tearing down. It is remembering that the goal for all its importance must always be secondary. The person(s) concerned must be primary.

Apart from the various leadership skills, there are also practical exercises that one can learn from. Like staff writing at least two encouragement cards to each team member. These are not ordinary cards but written with specific affirmations of the persons concerned. This means knowing the person through and through in order to encourage. The "four strokes" of building up the person is an excellent example of team building. Johnson also points out the importance of quality over quantity. Some organizations build up their team by increasing the number of staff. Johnson is urging us to build up our team members as the first choice. This is so wise as it is more important to build a few "high capacity" leaders than to have many average team members. He encourages us to learn about brain sciences and psychology for the purpose of encouraging and building up the team. Through preparation, patience, and passion, not only can we help others improve, we can also grow as a person. There is a very important chapter on change management which is so critical in any organization. Vertical leaders will embrace change instead of resisting it. Johnson also connects fulfillment levels with commitment levels. We also learn that vertical leadership is less about leadership with a positive mindset, but more of leadership from God's perspective. This is often missed out in our race to get things done.

Each leadership tip poses a specific leadership trait or skill. Johnson integrates some of his personal learning and experience into that particular chapter. Each chapter then ends with a testimony of a team member or parishioner who had experienced that particular leadership trait from Johnson. Capping it all is a discussion guide that team members can use to discuss or evaluate that trait.

As far as leadership tips are concerned, there are many useful and practical ones. Many of them are based on personal experiences and knowhow. Who can argue against 20 years of full-time ministry by one who is in charge of overseeing all the ministries at the largest church of America? This book scores highly in inspiration and motivating the human spirit. It is well supported by testimonies of many individuals who had been personally blessed by Johnson's leadership style. Readers can also feel the passion oozing through the pages of this book. What is disappointing is the light references to biblical principles. While I do not expect the author to do biblical analysis like a scholar, I expect to read more about what it means to see leadership from God's perspective. There are lots of quotes, illustrations, and examples. It can pass as a management handbook or leadership guide, but as far as spiritual leadership is concerned, this book seriously needs a companion volume to fill in the gaps.

Still, this book is a valuable addition to anyone desiring to build up the level of teamwork and group encouragement.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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