Lead . . . for God's Sake!: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership

Lead . . . for God's Sake!: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership


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If you have ever asked yourself why you do what you do, or wondered what your purpose is in leadership or in life, this book is for you. Whether you’re leading in business, sports, or in your own family, this inspiring story will show you how to take the first—and most important—step in becoming the leader you were meant to be. Tyndale House Publishers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414370552
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 10/21/2011
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 573,839
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

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LEAD ... for God's Sake!

By Todd G. Gongwer

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Todd Gongwer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-7055-2

Chapter One

The Need to Lead

Lead, for God's sake!" Coach Rocker yelled, bringing his twenty-minute tirade to an end as he stormed out of the locker room and slammed the door behind him. He was at his wits' end. This was the Knights' third loss in a row. And to make matters worse, it had come at the hands of cross-town rival Bishop South, a team they'd owned since the day Coach took over the program just three short seasons ago.

After losing in the final seconds of last year's state champion ship game, expectations for the Knights were sky-high coming into the 2007 season, and with good reason. Four of the five starters from that team were back, and as seniors, this was their year. It seemed the stage was set for the perfect season. Instead, the Knights were now sitting on a record of three wins and three losses, and Coach Rocker could feel the pressure of unmet expectations beginning to mount.

As one of the most successful coaches in Kentucky high school basketball history, Coach Steve Rocker was already a legend in the state. The former sharpshooting point guard from Indiana University had taken both of his previous teams to Kentucky state championships, and prior to coming to Franklin North had compiled an overall record of 356–41 in just seventeen seasons as a head coach. Emerging from the shadow of his father, the legendary Indiana high school basketball coach Pete Rocker, Steve, at just forty-two, was well on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats in his profession.

After experiencing three sub-five-hundred seasons in a row, Kentucky powerhouse Franklin North High School had hired Coach Rocker in the summer of 2005, convinced he could bring the Knights back to the glory days. Never one to disappoint, the fiery head coach had done just that by achieving a record of 14–6 in his first season with the Knights, followed by a record of 19–4, a regional championship, and a state runner-up title in his second season. Clearly, the Knights were back. Coach Rocker was practically given the key to the city, as the people of Franklin adored their beloved Knights and anyone who contributed so positively to their success. Now, in just his third season at the helm, the state championship was clearly within reach, and the standard was set. Anything less than the title for the number-one-ranked Knights would be viewed as failure in the eyes of the Franklin community—and in the eyes of Coach Rocker, too.

Coach didn't bother stopping by his office to lock up or to discuss the game with any of his assistant coaches. Although he'd typically confer with them after a game to determine the team's shortcomings, as far as he was concerned, this was all about team leadership ... or a lack thereof. There was absolutely no other excuse. The Knights had worked their tails off all summer long. They were running their offense to perfection and, with 6' 9" All-state center David Kelton filling the lane, their defense had wreaked havoc on each of their opponents ... in the first three games of the season, that is.

Now, for some reason, they weren't getting it done anymore. The Knights looked sloppy on both ends of the floor and out of sync in virtually every aspect of the game. Something just wasn't right, and Coach Rocker was determined to get to the bottom of it immediately.

Long after most of the fans had left the building, Coach, still stinging from the loss and submerged in his own thoughts, walked down the lonely back corridor adjacent to the gymnasium on the way to his car. As he neared the large, steel door to the outside, a lone voice rang out from behind.

"Hang in there, Coach. There's a reason for everything."

Startled, he turned to see who it was. All he could make out was a short, dark figure standing at the end of the hall, holding what looked like a mop in his hand. Although he wasn't certain, the short frame and the mop made it pretty easy to guess who it was, despite the darkness of the hallway. It had to be Joe Taylor, the school janitor.

Though Joe appeared to be a popular figure among the students, he was usually pretty reserved around Coach, so a relationship between the two men had never developed. Nonetheless, every once in a while, seemingly out of the blue, Joe would say something almost philosophical in nature. It would be brief, and maybe even a little bit confusing; but for some reason, it always seemed deeply meaningful.

"Yeah, right, Joe ... whatever," Coach answered as he gave a halfhearted wave and turned to finish the walk to his car. "A reason for everything ... what the heck is that supposed to mean?" he mumbled to himself.

As he made the thirty-minute drive home through the hills of eastern Kentucky, Coach continued to seethe. Questions flooded his mind. What was wrong with his team? Why did his guys not understand how important these games were? Why did they seem so clueless about leadership? Why did they just not care about winning as much as he did? Was it laziness, complacency, overconfidence?

Whatever it was, there was no excuse for it, and he was determined to make them pay. No team of his was going to lose like this ever again. Besides, they needed to understand these lessons to be successful later in life. If you don't pursue your goals with passion, how can you expect to ever make it to the top, regardless of what you're striving for? Deep in thought, he continued the drive through the lonely darkness of the Kentucky countryside.

Eventually, his mind shifted to considering options for the next day's practice. Maybe we shouldn't even pick up a ball? We'll just get between the lines and run, and do defensive drills. Yep, back to basics. If these guys don't hate losing enough to work harder than they have been during games, I'll teach 'em to hate what happens in practice when they don't! He'd seen it work before, so he was confident it would work again. He would ratchet the intensity up big time as a wake-up call they all desperately needed to hear.

As Coach pulled up to his house, he noticed Brandon, his ten-year-old son shooting baskets on the dimly lit court off to the side of the driveway. Shorter than most of his friends, Brandon was a true chip off the old block, both in stature and attitude. What he lacked in size he made up for with his determination, relentlessly pursuing his dream of following in his dad's footsteps to become a basketball superstar.

"Hey, Dad! Sorry about the loss ... Wanna play me in one-on-one?" Brandon asked, hoping to cheer him up a bit.

"Sorry, Brandon, Dad's got to get some things done tonight before tomorrow's practice. You keep working on your game so your team never does what ours did tonight. Bunch of lazy punks ..." he muttered, closing the door to the house behind him.

Brandon was used to this answer, so he shrugged it off pretty easily. He knew how important winning was to his dad, so anytime the Knights lost, Brandon normally stayed clear. Not sure why he'd even asked, Brandon went back to his routine of counting down the seconds to the end of the state championship game, dribbling through defenders, and hitting the shot at the buzzer. In jubilation, Brandon would jump around, imagining the fans swarming him while his dad proudly embraced him. State champs at last. That was his dream.

But now, back to reality. Even though his dad's not spending time with him was tough to take, he knew Coach had to work hard to produce winning teams, so he'd learned not to make a big deal about it. Besides, when Dad's team won, he was always in a good mood. And since he won most of the time, all was usually well—so well, in fact, that Coach Rocker was frequently being interviewed on the nightly news or written about in articles. People seemed to know him everywhere they went. It was cool having everyone worship his dad because of his basketball success. It was also cool to live in a great neighborhood in a big house. So, despite his disappointments, Brandon had learned that the lack of time with his dad was the price he had to pay for all the other great things that came with his success.

Once inside the house, Coach headed straight for his favorite stewing spot, the den, to begin the breakdown of the previous game's film. Almost immediately upon settling into his chair with his notebook in hand, the phone rang. It was Grant Steffin, Coach Rocker's favorite golfing buddy. Grant lived in a beautiful home just down the street and was the CEO of Cybelcom, one of the fastest-growing companies in the region. Before that, the Ivy League-educated business whiz had founded his own software company, which was eventually bought out by Cybelcom in the late nineties. After just three years as a division president for Cybelcom, the board recognized Grant's uncanny ability to lead and handed him the reins of the entire organization. Grant exuded confidence, and with his athletic build and thick, dark hair, he even looked the part of a leader. He truly seemed to have it all. If anyone knew about leadership or how to win, it was Grant Steffin.

"Hey, Coach. Thought you might be up for a beer," Grant said in his normal upbeat tone. "I know the loss is eatin' away at ya, so I thought I'd offer my counsel ... along with a cold beverage, of course."

Coach could rarely turn down the opportunity to hang out with Grant, especially feeling like he was. So, despite the late hour, he accepted the invitation, jumped up from his chair, and headed for the door.

"Runnin' over to Grant's for a few!" he yelled, slipping into his jacket.

Kathy, Coach's wife, was upstairs putting Kylee, their six-year-old daughter, to bed. She popped her head out from the bedroom doorway and shot him a disgusted look. Coach knew what she was thinking, but at this point, he didn't really care. He had more important things to worry about than a nagging wife. Shrugging it off, he walked out the door and headed across the backyard, following his normal shortcut to Grant's place.


Excerpted from LEAD ... for God's Sake! by Todd G. Gongwer Copyright © 2010 by Todd Gongwer. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Urban Meyer....................ix
Chapter 1 The Need to Lead....................1
Chapter 2 The Good Life....................7
Chapter 3 Missing Something....................19
Chapter 4 Priorities....................31
Chapter 5 Get Outta Here....................39
Chapter 6 Sharing Rock Bottom....................45
Chapter 7 Mondays with Joe....................55
Chapter 8 The Ride Continues....................63
Chapter 9 From the Inside Out....................71
Chapter 10 The Real Reason....................89
Chapter 11 Listening to Hear....................97
Chapter 12 First Things First....................105
Chapter 13 Searching for the Heart....................119
Chapter 14 Never Too Late....................125
Chapter 15 Reconciliation—A Real Gut Check....................137
Chapter 16 Influence and Responsibility....................141
Chapter 17 Burying the Hatchet....................155
Chapter 18 A Real Treasure....................165
Chapter 19 Digging Deeper....................171
Chapter 20 Homecoming....................179
Chapter 21 Walking Through It....................185
Chapter 22 Celebration....................191
Chapter 23 The Purpose Effect....................209
Chapter 24 The Final Test....................219
Chapter 25 What Really Matters....................227
Afterword Joe's Book....................235

What People are Saying About This

Lou Holtz

This is a book I could not put down. Every parent, coach, manager, and leader should read it. I wish I had read it 30 years ago.

Mony Williams

I could not put this book down. It transcends culture, gender, economics…something that anyone can relate to. What a message!
Mony Williams, Head coach, New Orleans Hornets

Dr. John Mulford

I wish this book had been available to my business students and practitioners over the last twenty-five years. It’s that good!
Dr. John Mulford, Former dean of the school of business, Regent University

Mark Merrill

A real life changer! An incredible story packed with great leadership insights. Coaches, parents, and business leaders alike will benefit from reading this book.
Mark Merrill, President, Family First (All Pro Dad); host, Family Minute radio show

Doctor - John Mulford

I wish this book had been available to my business students and practitioners over the last twenty-five years. It’s that good!

John D. Beckett

As a business leader I found its takeaways right on target—touching life where the rubber meets the road. I wasn’t able to put it down.

Wally Armstrong

This wonderful parable really speaks to your heart, I couldn’t put it down. Todd has done a masterful job of condensing servant leadership into simple and applicable truths.
Wally Armstrong, Lifetime PGA tour member

Urban Meyer

One of the most powerful books I have ever read.

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Lead ... for God's Sake!: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
RTretter More than 1 year ago
A couple of weeks ago, while walking through a bookstore, I was drawn to this book. I read a lot of books on leadership, and even wrote one with someone else (Leadership in Volunteer Groups). But finally last night, around 10, I started reading your book before I went to sleep. Well, I finally went to sleep around 1:30 or 2 after finishing the book. I have to agree with Coach Urban Meyer that it is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It hit me hard, and it reminded me of why I should do what I do. I had lost sight of that. Whether it be my family, occupation, or any other interaction, I think I had lost my way somewhat. Thanks to this book, I am extremely hopeful I am finding my way back. So, thank you Todd. I would certainly recommend this book to all my friends and associates, and I encourage everone to buy it, read it, and live it!
Coach_JRock More than 1 year ago
Todd took the half court shot as time expired that would win the championship. Did he make it? Only the reader will know. I read it cover to cover the day I received it, and again two weeks later. It was a really good book the first time, even better the second time. Being a husband, a father and a high school coach, it made me reflect on what I do, how I do it and most importantly, why I do it. It is very thought provoking. Too many people want the answers provided to them on a silver platter. This book gives you the silver platter, and THE answer is presented, but each person must get their own unique answer. In my opinion, this book is a must read.
ladybugofthree More than 1 year ago
I have been reluctant to read this book for many months, not fully understanding what it was. The author is from the small town we live in, and actually attends the same church as my family (their children are in my children's classes at school as well). While there has been much hype in our area since the release of the book, it was never one I intended to purchase, I thought it was a "self-help" book of sorts. Then it became available through one of the company's I do book reviews for, so I thought I would give it a try. While the beginning was a bit rough for me (some choice language is sprinkled through out the first few chapters), I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Needless to say, I immediately handed it off to my husband, who is an elementary school teacher and basketball coach, and told him it is a "must read"! While the book does deal with leadership and "self help" issues, it felt more like a fiction story I was reading, which is right up my alley! Coach Rocker is dealing with many issues that are relevant in marriages today, and seems to be going through much more in his job as well. He struggles in many areas, and at times is just trying to stay afloat. How can he be the leader others expect him to be, when he doesn't even have his own life in order? The one storyline I couldn't get enough of was that of Joe, the Janitor. What a special and unique man he represented! Through the relationships that are formed, we are taken deeper in to the life of Joe, and find out how he became the man that he is today. On the surface, Joe seems to be your average blue collar worker, but after spending several minutes with him, you learn there is so much more to who he is. If you're looking for a great book to read, and glean some wonderful leadership advice from, then this book is for you! Even as a stay at home mom (who leads a girl scout group, coaches Upward Cheerleading, and works with children at church) there were so many take-a ways from this book for me. Everyone needs a "Joe" in their life, teaching them what it means to be a leader, and more importantly, a child of God. I enthusiastically give this book 5 stars! It would make a wonderful Father's Day gift for that special someone in your life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eating breakfast out with my son and husband. A gentleman a few tables away was talking about a book he had read that made him cry. Being a avid book reader, I said to my son, I have to find out what book he is talking about that would make a man cry. We stopped at his table on the way out. He was very glad to share the title. He was a basketball coach himself. I went right home got on my IPad, received and read the book. It's for leaders and we are all leaders in one way or another. Wonderful read, very very helpful for all of us. I'm a 70 year old lady know little about basketball,. I sure learn a lot about how to make our life mean more.
barkru More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book. You will view your relationship with God and other people in a completely different light. This book is about developing the right relationship with God and others. You will gain new understanding of the Bible, right relationships and how to build and enjoy them.
KMarkovich More than 1 year ago
WOW! What an amazing book! I read it because it was on Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program but I am blown away by it! It is the story of a high school basketball coach who is having problems with getting his team motivated – and he doesn’t seem to have any time to spare for his wife or two kids. His friend Grant tells him to lead one way, with either rewards or discipline. But the janitor at the school starts teaching him other ways to lead – through the heart. All in leadership should read this book – it is never too late to lead well – and even more specifically, young men should read this book! Incredible book!!
Danny_G More than 1 year ago
"What we have is a lack of leadership!" It started off with a coach frustrated by his players not playing like a team. No matter what he tried he could not get the gelling that is required for teams to succeed. He then found a compatriot in his friend who was having similar troubles in the business world. Employees just wanted to get paid and when the money was good so was morale. When the money wasn't there neither were the employees. What was missing? In his book LEAD for God's Sake! Todd Gongwer takes the reader on an inspirational fiction about where to find the heart of leadership. Through this wonderfully written story, Gongwer lays the foundation for what a leader should be and how to express their leadership properly. I found this book to very engaging and exciting. I was having a hard time putting it down as the story developed. This would be a great book for anyone who is in a place of leadership no matter the environment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WOW! This book is an incredibly entertaining and emotionally charged story that will not only challenge the way you think about leadership - but even more importantly, how you think about your life and your true purpose on this earth. It's no wonder Urban Meyer, Lou Holtz, and a host of other leaders from the world of business, sports, and beyond have touted this as "one of the best ever"  it truly delivers!  If you are in a position of leadership in business, sports,  or even in your own home this book is an absolute must read!   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been asking for leadership from the kids I coach without understanding what I actually wanted the kids to deliver. This story feels like it was written about my life. Thank you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book starts out by telling the story of a janitor cleaning an office building and quickly switches to a coach and his basketball team. The team starts losing, the coach’s family life is going down the drain, and he seems to be questioning life as many of us do. Honestly, I started to regret my decision to read this book and quite frankly I was only reading it because my uncle wrote it. I dislike reading and only read books that I have to through school. I decided to stick it out and keep reading. As I read on, I felt that I judged the book too soon and after the first few chapters I got hooked. I didn’t want to put the book down and as I read about Joe I wanted to learn more and more. I think this is one of my favorite books by far because it made me think deeper and question myself. It made me ask myself why I was doing what I was doing. Not only does this book make you think about your own life, but it also teaches you great lessons while reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kristen4mk More than 1 year ago
This book was totally not what I expected. I assumed, based on the title and endorsements, that it was a leadership/coaching "how-to" book....and it sort of is...but not exactly. It's actually a story, yes, about leadership, however, the author employs a parable, an inspirational story to get his point across. Coach Rocker is one of Kentucky's top high school basketball coaches, and he is highly motivated to win. Married with two children under the age of 10, he is in the midst of what was supposed to be a championship season. His team is losing steam and he can't figure out why. His friend Grant is a highly successful businessman - everything he touches turns to gold - but his personal life is falling apart, and he's drinking too much. Both men desperately want to find out what they must change to be successful, but are they truly willing to examine themselves and find out some of the responsibility lies in their leadership (or lack thereof?) Pick up this book to find out what happens; you'll certainly learn something, too.
BeachNana8 More than 1 year ago
This book is the most interesting and inspiring book I’ve ever read on becoming a great leader. It is a must read for all husbands and male friends in your life. It is the story of a successful high school coach who suddenly finds his players are losing their drive to win. When Coach appeals to a successful CEO friend, he gets advice that doesn’t seem to help at all. However, talking to the school janitor, Joe Taylor, he gets some ideas of what the guys are missing: leadership, the love for their teammates, the will to win, and their former passion for the game. When he learns that one of his players’ parents were divorcing and he brushed it off, appearing not to care, he realized he was failing his players. When David, a key player, broke his hand hitting something in anger, Coach realized David had only followed his bad example. Coach met with the team and apologized to each member saying he had been selfish, making winning more important to him then helping them become successful. He discussed leadership, influence and responsibility and praised the team. Coach also apologized to his family and said he’d spend more time with them. Joe gave him a book on leadership to help him. The surprise at the end of the book is totally unexpected but fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SobelleJJ More than 1 year ago
This is a great book with a wonderful message to be learned by all ages. I had the privledge of meeting the author, Todd Gongwer, and he is such a down-to-earth, positive thinking man with such insight. I applaud him for putting in to words how we can change the course of our thinking and the decisions we make. Todd did this with a great, heart-warming story that carries a wonderfully strong message.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Steve Rocker, one of the most successful high school basketball coaches in Kentucky's history, is about to enter into the most difficult season of his career. With expectations at an all-time high, his players have lost their will to win and their passion for the game; none of Coach Rocker's tried and true motivational methods are working, and he doesn't know why. As the season continues to spiral downward and his home life begins to mirror the problems he's facing on the court, Coach Rocker stumbles upon a most unlikely mentor - Joe Taylor, the school's janitor, who seems to have the answers to all of Coach's problems. Joe helps the Coach turn his season around and reconnect not only with his players, but his wife and children as well. He ultimately helps him realize that his true purpose in life is not to win games, set records, or achieve personal acclaim, but rather to influence others by leading from the heart. This is a wonderful book that opened my eyes to what it truely means to live. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered why am I doing what I'm doing?
AprilMK More than 1 year ago
This book is about learning new concepts on leadership and being able to apply them to your life with passion and purpose.It will inspire you and challenge you.Todd Gongwer, the author, does a wonderful job of making the characters relatable and using them to communicate the true definition of being a leader through Jesus Christ. It is heart felt and is a book you will not want to put down. I would recommend it to anyone that is looking for some ideas to impact not only their own life but also the lives of others. **Disclosure** I received this complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about an awful coach that "sees the light" and becomes a mediocre coach. It is very cliche' and predictable. You saw the ending coming pages before you actually got there.
ReidGettys More than 1 year ago
I am generally skeptical of any book review that starts with "I could not put this book down!" I have read dozens of books on leadership that quite frankly, were so easy to put down that picking them back up became the the real issue. After carrying Lead...for God's Sake around in my briefcase for several weeks, a 5 hour flight delay lead me to finally picking it up. Lol, once I did....I could not put it down! Literally reading as I walked to the Starbucks stand and reading as I bumped into the person in front of me on the gateway! This book does not simply contain leadership "nuggets" that you read, dog-ear the page and underline before you put it in your bookcase. This book will make such a profound impact, that you will give your copy to the stranger sitting next to you on the airplane, you will order a dozen copies to hand out to every leader you know and ultimately, it will make the kind of impact that will change your life! I lead a team at home, I lead a team of litigation attorneys at Exxon Mobil Corporation and for the last two years, I have lead a High School basketball team. While the basketball parable initially intrigued me, I have found the message more applicable to my teams at work and at home. As I read this book, I assumed that Coach Rockers' transformation was the message of the book and then with the subtlety of a 2x4 across the head, I realized the real intent was call to be more "janitorial" in how I live and lead! This book not has challenged me to understand "why" I do what I do, but it has inspired me to make real and substantive changes in how I lead ALL of my teams!