Book Review: John Maxwell’s “The Leaders Heart”

September 21, 2010 at 7:57 pm Leave a comment

In American Christian circles John Maxwell is among the most popular of “leadership experts.” In an effort for complete transparency, let me state that I do not read many leadership books thoroughly. I tend to ignore the antidotes and stories while looking for the main points and the leadership principles that are being espoused. In my opinion, this is the primary strength of Maxwell’s new devotional journal “A Leaders Heart”, published by Thomas Nelson.

The leadership principles are divided into 365 daily leadership “devotions”, which are concise and clear – straight to the point. Each one of the “devotions” is followed up by a question and space for writing personal reflections. The topics include success, stewardship, teamwork, mentoring, etc. The leadership principles in “A Leaders Heart” are pulled from 11 of Maxwell’s other books, so you get the best of his leadership principles in one succinct volume – this is another one of the strengths of this work.

You will notice that I have placed the word “devotion” in parenthesis throughout this review. My primary critique of Maxwell’s “A Leaders Heart” involves his application of biblical passages. The challenge is grounded in the fact that this book will primarily be marketed to Christians, plus the word “devotion” has sub-cultural ties to ‘properly reading and applying Scripture’ among Christians. One of the usual pitfalls of niche books like this, marketed to Christians, is that Scripture is often used in ways foreign to its primary meaning.

Each of the 365 “devotions” in “A Leaders Heart” begins with a passage of Scripture. Maxwell then applies that scripture with a leadership focus. The primary problem lies in the fact that for some of the passages a leadership principle can only be vaguely implied as a secondary application, if at all. But because of the aim of the book, marketed as a “leadership devotional”, Maxwell’s application of each text must be applied for leadership development.

Without this caveat most readers will not discern this hermeneutical leap. This can be extremely dangerous since there is no explicit “Christ-centered” focus in this book, which is marketed to Christians. Another concern I have is for the non-Christian reader, there is a hazy call to believe in Jesus, the “ultimate leader” tagged on at the end.

Books like this seem to loose their sincerity when they are bent to fit the literature mold of America’s Christian sub-culture. Maxwell would have done well to just simply make this book a “leadership reflection journal” instead of a “devotion” based on Scripture. With that said let me return to my previous point: if you can acknowledge and ignore the hermeneutical weaknesses of this book, it can be a good succinct leadership resource.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Entry filed under: Books.

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