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Posted June 10, 2004
Early this morning in the locker room of my local YMCA, I had a recurring discussion with a friend and senior executive from an internationally recognized American bank. We discussed a subject of mutual interest to both of us--the need in our society to develop effective managers. In our opinion leaders may be born (to a degree) but managers are made (or more precisely, developed) over time. It takes great focus, patience, and courage to become an effective manager. John Sullivan's book give great insight into the secret of what it takes to become particular type of manager--one who can capably serve society through responsibly using the leadership qualities they possess. I have been a manager for a large corporation, taught undergraduate and graduate management courses, and been assigned responsibility for developing managers at a large federal agency. As a result of my interest in the subject I have read a number of books on the subject of servanthood, or stewardship, and--in my opinion--John Sullivan's book is the best. Why do I believe 'Servant First' is a book that deserves to be read? In the first half of his book, John builds a sound foundation by addressing the best of existing management theory. I have known John Sullivan for several years and he is in his element here. John has also been a manager and he has has also taught management for years. He knows the breadth, depth, and current state of management study--with at times its shortcomings and shallowness--and he is an excellent communicator. His balanced treatment of this initial section can probably only be truly measured for its scholarship by someone who has read widely in the field, but it does not take a scholar to understand and appreciate what John is writing about. He is clear, practical, and to the point. Then, in the second half of the book, John turns with great insight and enthusiasm to directly address his thesis. 'One needs to start with the attitude of a servant if one is to successfully serve others, and the teachings of Jesus Christ provide some great insight into this task that should be understood--not ignored or disregarded.' John is as capable in his Biblical scholarship as he is in the field of management study. This is no simplistic cookbook written for the amateur. In this short book, John has provided his reader with a very lucid, succinct summary of management thought taken from a distinctly Christian perspective. John is consistently logical, and his book has an organization that neither presumes too much, nor bores the reader. By the time one finishes 'Servant First,' one has a good picture of both the challenges and contributions of a servant ethic that attempts to emulate the teachings of Jesus Christ. One doesn't have to be a Christian to learn important principles from this book, but if one is a Christian there is a special insight into this process of developing one's servanthood that can be gained because of one's experiences and difficulties in attempting to serve--with competence. I recommend it without reservation for the practitioner, the scholar, or the beginning student. I also recognize that it may have value for those working within churches. The experienced manager will fine that there is contained in this book a timeless, classical wisdom written with an understanding of the modern world of the twenty-first century. It is a passionate message that one can only hope will find root in contemporary soil.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 11, 2004
Pessimism is the prevailing mindset at the beginning of the new millennium. We can do nothing in the face of business corruption, global warming, third world poverty and disease, and international terrorism--at least according to the pessimists. But there is a hopeful alternative: the optimism of those who can adopt the leadership example set by Jesus Christ to serve others. John Sullivan's book, Servant First! Leadership for the New Millennium, clearly sets forth this optimistic alternative in a practical manner. Servant leadership differs from trait, behavioral, situational, and contingency leadership approaches by to its focus on human persons and relationships. This normative paradigm recognizes the leader and the followers to be spiritual as well as material creatures, ones worthy of dignity and respect unconditionally, not merely for their instrumental contributions. Robert K. Greenleaf said that a genuine servant leader puts the needs and desires of her followers before her own needs. Her preferred methods are use of persuasion and example rather than command and control or manipulation. She measures success by manifest growth in the people served and the positive effects on overall society. Those seeking to be servant leaders can be naïve, too passive and too tolerant of followers, pursue the wrong ends, and ineffective in some situational contexts, such as prison administration. They are subject to manipulation by followers. John Sullivan, while not directly refuting such criticism, presents a strong positive case for servant leadership, describing and explaining how Jesus Christ led and mentored his disciples. Sullivan¿s book demonstrates that proper servant leadership need not be limited by the above objections. Moreover, Sullivan argues that the leadership model exemplified by Christ is not beyond ordinary human capability, but it may be studied and applied effectively within a variety of contemporary organizations. Sullivan identifies character traits, competencies, and leadership types exemplified by Christ as leader. He describes how Christ built a values-driven organization. Drawing on his military experience and management education, Sullivan offers a five-phased strategy for preparing, deploying, and growing an organization. Especially helpful are the suggested questions that the contemporary leader can address at each phase. Examples, often blending the methods of Deming with biblical accounts, explain specific tactics that have been used successfully to implement the strategy in military, educational, and business situations. Sullivan does not argue ideologically, but seeks to persuade the reader by using numerous examples that a person who adopts the nature of a servant leader, applying the principles and behaviors exemplified by Christ, can lead well. His book thus presents a positive alternative for anyone interested in moving away from the naysayers toward a culture of personal, corporate, and societal optimism. His book is recommended reading for anyone searching for an optimistic and practical stimulus for more effective leadership.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.