Sunday, November 19, 2017

Book Review: The Heart of Leadership (2013) by Mark Miller


The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow (2013)
by Mark Miller

This book is very enlightening and entertaining business fable (story with lessons). It’s about a young and ambitious man named Blake Brown who desperately wanted promotion but doesn’t have despite his outstanding individual performance. His boss Samantha keeps on telling him that “leaders are different.” In his confusion and frustration, Blake turns to his former mentor, Debbie Brewster, for advice but instead she sends him on a quest to meet five leaders, each of whom hold “a piece of the puzzle he’s trying to solve.” Are you the type of leader people want to follow? You and I can be – this book will show us what sets great leaders apart from all the rest.

Leaders are different”. That wasn’t a new idea for me, but I’m grateful that Mark Miller keeps reminding and emphasizing that. And to be different, I have to have leadership character. “As important as the skills are,” he writes, “lack of skills is not what derails most leaders; skill are too easy to learn. If you want to predict people’s ultimate success as leaders, evaluate not their skills but their leadership character.” Without leadership character no one cares about our skills. That’s true! Here are 5 core traits that together constitute leadership character as Blake learned these from his interviews with great leaders, they represent the HEART of leadership (I add questions for each point instead of nugget of truths found in the book so that you’ll read it for yourself):

#1 Hunger for Wisdom

You need to think of your quest for wisdom as a hunger that will never be satiated.” Good questions to ask myself: Do I see my personal development as one of my highest priorities? Is my calendar reflects the high priority I place on the pursuit of wisdom? Am I invest time on a regular basis with people who help me grow?

#2 Expect the Best

The future has not yet been written – it is written by leaders.” When difficulties arise, am I remain optimist? Am my ‘expect the best’ outlook impacts all areas of my life? Do I consistently demonstrate an ‘expect the best’ attitude? Am I able to grasp reality and still maintain my optimism?

#3 Accept Responsibility

The best leaders don’t blame others. They own their actions and their outcomes.” Am I accept responsibility for my effort and outcomes? Am I willingly accept responsibility for the work of those I lead? When outcomes are not good, am I look to my role in the situation first? And when outcomes are good, am I quick to give praise to others?

#4 Respond with Courage

Leaders usually don’t wait – they initiate.” “Your missed opportunities are often no big deal in isolation. They are, however, cumulative.” Am I willing to make tough decisions? Can people count on me to do the right thing even when it won’t be popular? Is my first instinct when faced with a challenge or opportunity is to act?

#5 Think Others First

The servant leader constantly works to help others win.” “SERVE = See the Future, Engage and Develop Others, Reinvent Continuously, Value Results and Relationships, and Embody the Values.” Do I consider the needs and desires of others before my own? Am I constantly look for ways to add value to others? During my daily activities, do I often find myself serving others? Am I a serving leader?

When I read this book, I no longer thinking of Blake, the main character, but I see myself on the quest of learning and improving my leadership character. His journey of discovery became mine. In the final note, “the heart of leadership is a matter of the heart.” And so as I finished reading this book, I prayed, ‘Lord, only you can change my heart, change it Lord so that I may lead with the HEART of leadership. Amen.’

Seriously, read and apply the principles in this book!
[only RM17.90 at Xcessbook, AmCorp Mall, Petaling Jaya]

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture (2013)


Gospel-Centered Teaching: 
Showing Christ in All the Scripture (2013) 
by Trevin Wax


I bought this valuable book from the Hill Book Fair for only RM3. It is a short little book and easy to read but worth all the effort. Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, has written easy-to-understand guide to what it means to be focused on Christ in our teaching. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 that Jesus is the foundation of the church and we must take care how we build upon this foundation. As Bible teacher, I’m concerned that every sharing and Bible Study must be founded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that it’s Jesus who changes lives, and the goal of our Bible Study is to continually reintroduce people to him.

I was challenged when I read the first chapter when the author writes that the biggest problem with Christians today is Biblical literacy. “It’s an epidemic,” he said. I understand this issue very well. He also points out another issue, namely, that we have “a closed-off group of biblical junkies who view Bible Study as their ‘fix’ for the week.” And sometime we can have “people who can win a game of Bible trivia, but who don’t look very much like Jesus.” We want to ‘go deeper’ we said but that also is not the answer, for the demons “got their theology down (James 2), but are devils still.” The question is not so much of “What’s missing?” (though methods and problem solving are important) but rather the question is – “Who’s missing?” The answer, of course, is Jesus. When we ask the right question, “Who’s missing?” from our sharing/teaching, we’ll embark on a quest to find Jesus in all the Scripture.

As I prepare Bible studies in the future (and you too), I ought to ask myself these 3 questions by Travin Wax: #1 How does this topic or passage fit into the Big Story of Scripture?; #2 What is distinctively Christian about the way I am addressing this topic or passage?; and #3 How does this truth equip God’s church to live on mission? If I can answer these questions rightly, I can be sure that I’m teaching a Gospel-centered teaching and Christ-focused Bible Study. I recommend this book to every preacher, small group leader, Sunday school facilitator and Bible Study teacher. This book is an excellent guide for us to understand how to teach the Bible with Christ as our focus, the gospel as our centre and the entire Bible as one big story about Jesus.

This book is divided into 5 chapters:
  1. Something’s Missing
  2. Back to Basics
  3. Connect the Dots and Tell the Story
  4. Ground Your Application in the Gospel
  5. Overflow with Passion for God’s Mission


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Book Review: Messy: How To Be Creative and Resilient in A Tidy-Minded World (2016)


Messy: How To Be Creative and Resilient in A Tidy-Minded World (2016) 
by Tim Harford

My office table is always messy. Unclean cup, big volume books, empty bottle, crumpled paper, sugar container and – as I write this – there is a mysterious liquid soap on my table! There is a well-valued idiom: “cleanliness is next to godliness.” I agree. I make sure my clothes that I wear are clean. I wrapped my books so that it will not get wet or dirt. I will not wear socks more than 3 days. But as for my office table, notebook, calendar and file documents, messy is the right word to describe it. When I read that Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, two of my heroes, both had messy workspaces, I’m glad. Einstein famously pointing out that, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Good question.

I bought this book Messy at BookXcess Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya for only RM19.90 (MPH bookstore will cost you RM79.90). I love the cover design and any book with a word ‘creativity’ in it attract my attention. Tim Harford writing this book to celebrate the benefits that messiness has in our lives. Drawing from research in neuroscience, psychology and social science, Tim shows that “if you want to be creative and resilient, you need a little more disorder in your world.” What make this book interesting (though I think it can be shorter) is that it is very convincing because there are lot of real life examples, as well as scientific information on why it's true. Tim encourages messiness because it can lead us to productivity and creative thinking. “We are often succumb to the temptation of a tidy-minded approach,” writes Tim, “went we would be better served by embracing a degree of mess.” 

The author organized his book into nine categories: Creativity, Collaboration, Workplaces, Improvisation, Winning, Incentives, Automation, Resilience, and Life. Tim Harford writes, “Often we are so seduced by the blandishments of tidiness that we fail to appreciate the virtues of the messy - the untidy, unquantified, uncoordinated, improvised, imperfect, incoherent, crude, cluttered, random, ambiguous, vague, difficult, diverse or even dirty. The scripted speech misreads the energy of the room; the careful commander is disorientated by a more impetuous opponent; the writer is serendipitously inspired by a random distraction; the quantified targets create perverse incentives; the workers in the tidy office feel helpless and demotivated; a disruptive outsider aggravates the team but brings a fresh new insight. The worker with the messy inbox ultimately gets more done; we find a soulmate when we ignore the website questionnaires; the kids running loose in the wasteland not only have fun and learn more skills, but also - counter-intuitively - have fewer accidents.” 

Life is a beautiful mess. 
You can make it more beautiful by embracing its. 
If you don’t, you’ll mess it up J


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