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The End of Many Books

Leadership and Emotional Sabotage

by Joe Rigney

In this book Rigney riffs on Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve and weaves in significantly more Scripture than does Friedman on the nature of leadership.

Nerve has moved into my list of top 5 books of any kind/subject/genre, and has to be the first pull from my leadership shelf when I’m looking for a boost of encouragement. That said, Friedman was not a Christian and that’s evident in his message. Rigney aims to redeem, so to speak, what Friedman sees that is true, even if Friedman doesn’t see all that is true.

I’m probably not the target audience for Rigney’s brief book. I didn’t need an introduction to the problems of chronic anxiety – in families and churches and cultures. I also didn’t need an introduction to leaders leading with strength, or to the potential of sabotage when leaders lead well. So I was hoping for more, not just an introduction or reframing, but for advancing. And with all that said, I can see myself recommending Rigney first and then possibly Friedman to others in days to come.

One thing that doesn’t affect whether or not Rigney’s work is max-edifying (which it is), is that where Friedman argues for nerve Rigney argues for biblical sober-mindedness. I think that’s interesting, but I’d argue that sober-mindedness and self-control belong more with what Friedman calls differentiation. Nerve has much more heart, much more courage. The title of Rigney’s last three chapters apply Courage to different spheres of life (Courage in the Home, Courage in the Church, Courage in the World), but he still seems to talk about nerve as sober-mindedness. The answer to problem passions is proper passions (which I’m sure Rigney would agree with, it’s just not how he describes it in these pages). We do need clarity, but some clarity is not a cause but a result of ordered affections.

Should you read this? Well, if you have not read A Failure of Nerve, you should have ordered Rigney’s book yesterday and finished it within hours of the Amazon truck driving away from your house. If you have read Nerve, you should still read Rigney, a probably a couple times.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Contagious Culture

by Anese Cavenaugh

Glad presence. That’s the standard for a good culture (home, school, business), and it’s the standard for the leader who wants to set—or elevate—the tone of a good culture.

This is my second time reading the book. I picked it up again because I recommended it to a guy who’s part of a team that needed some cultural heart-replacement. And while I still think some of it is repetitive rah-rah, it does put the responsibility in the right place: the one you see in the mirror.

I find the principle easier to envision than to embody. The grumblers and malcontents can get to me, and it’s also been a challenge to compensate for low energy and internal meh. That said, not blaming others or letting ourselves off the hook are evergreen reminders. Try a “presence reboot” and be the person you want the group to be full of.

3 of 5 stars

Related, and for fun, this talk about one buttock playing shows how it’s done.

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The End of Many Books

The Gap and the Gain

by Dan Sullivan and (actually written) by Benjamin Hardy

If you have great ambitions you likely have great discouragements. The higher your ideals, the lower the chance you reach them. While it’s good to have good wants, it’s also crucial to have good perspective. This book encourages those who pursue big goals to practice even better gratitude.

The gap is the measurement between where you are and where you wish you were. The gain is the measurement between where you were and how far you’ve come. A focus on the gap likely leads to discouragement and frustration. A grasp of the gain promotes a positive frame and makes further progress desirable; you work out of good feelings rather than out of anxiety and pressure.

Here is the diagram:

The gap and the gain is a sticky idea, one that I won’t soon forget. And I’m only giving the book itself 3 out of 5 stars. A friend of mine recommended it, I’m glad I read it, and again, the concept has legs. But you see the whole track after a couple laps, and after a certain amount of repetition you just get tired, not better trained. It could also use a bit more warning: it’s not for the non-ambitious. Couch potatoes might be better being a little more frustrated.

If you are big-visioned and if you are big-struggling with how far away you seem to be from reaching the vision, this might edify you. You could also just try being more thankful, which never hurts.

3 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

A Failure of Nerve

by Edwin Friedman

February 2022. I do sometimes wish I could explain this book better. I almost always wish I could embody the nerve Friedman describes better.

As you can see below, I’ve read this a bunch of times. This go-round is in discussion with the men who help to shepherd our church’s small-groups. Even though I last finished it in 2019, I had intended to start it again when fearfulness ramped up during the lockdowns of 2020. Since then the world has set up its tent in CHAZ Anxietyville.

While leaders today may not have it more difficult than those in the past, they are probably more scrutinized and the criticisms more amplified. So much is broken, and the hour needs more men who aren’t panicked or pressured into over-reactivity, who can keep their heart and their direction for the good of the people they’re connected to.

You don’t have to read this book; read 1 Timothy 4:15-16 instead. And it’s true that Friedman really should be ignored in some parts. But I keep giving this thing 5 of 5 stars, so what are you waiting for?


May 2019 – 5/5 stars. With all the qualifications from my previous reviews in mind, this book is just a great challenge.

“To be a leader, one must both have and embody a vision of where one wants to go. It is not a matter of knowing or believing one is right; it is a matter of taking the first step.”


December 2013: Read again and discussed with the TEC elders through 2013. Fantastic material for a leadership team, as long as that team already has a strong theological basis.


September 2012 – 5/5 stars: One of the most compelling and clarifying books I’ve read in a long time. Though I wouldn’t use the Friedman’s vocabulary, agree with his evolutionary presumptions, or have anywhere near his positivity apart from the gospel, I’d still say the Rabbi asks great questions that every leader (husband, father, pastor, boss, president, etc.) should consider.

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The End of Many Books

It’s Your Ship

Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

I appreciated the stories and principles in this book. I did not like the egalitarianism found near the end, but reading to the end was worth it because that’s when he at least let a little off the air out of his humble-brags. Anyway, a leader should keep learning, keep listening, and keep leading.

“the winning leader’s first principle: Optimism rules. And the corollary: Opportunities never cease. The bottom line: It’s your ship. Make it the best.”

Should you read this? If you lead somewhere, then yes, put this into your non-urgent but needing-a-shot-in-the-arm queue.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

The Leader’s Bookshelf

I listened to this Art of Manliness podcast on The Leader’s Bookshelf. The host was interviewing Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (that really is some title) who had surveyed a number of generals and admirals to find out their recommendations for books on leadership and then written about the top 50 results.

Earlier this year my friend Jonathan recommended the episode to some school parents since their students were assigned to read Killer Angels, a historical fiction piece about the Civil War. In the top 50 there is a surprising amount of fiction and, less surprising, a lot of history. In the interview itself there are some easy tips for reading more, such as carrying/reading Kindle copies and using small segments of time rather than waiting for big blocks. The episode isn’t groundbreaking, but it is worth a listen for the reminders/encouragement.

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The End of Many Books

Relentless

by Tim Grover

I grew up watching Michael Jordan, and this was an interesting perspective from his first trainer. This is not a book about Christlike greatness. It’s not a book about how to have friends or care about anyone other than yourself. At the same time I found some of the reminders timely and a spur to confidence.

3 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Antifragile

by Nassim Taleb

I heard about this book from Doug Wilson’s recommendation, and I recommend that recommendation. As for the book itself, I loved it. I might say I needed it even. 

The categories of Fragile, Robust, and Antifragile are a worldview trifecta. Life on earth is volatile. Volatility is unavoidable and often unpredictable, especially when it comes to worst cases. Either a man will fear, prepare to survive, or look forward to the volatility (up to a point, of course) in order to get better. 

“You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.” 

There are some technical formulas I didn’t follow, and maybe Taleb likes charts a bit much for my taste. He also believes in, and resents the brutality of, evolution. Evolution doesn’t bother me, at least on the macro level, because I don’t think it’s true. Taleb also gets snarky at times. That doesnt’ bother me either because, well, I like snark. 

But the “nonsissy concept of antifragility” is wisdom gold. It applies to emotions, health/medicine/exercise/food, money/economics, education/schools, politics/government, technology, suffering, discipleship/pastoral ministry and counseling. I’ve already started a second read of the book with the elders at our church.

5 of 5 stars

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Generals and Shepherds

Great distinction between generals and shepherds:

“Rupert Greeves was no general. Generals spend men. Generals expect sacrifice from those who stand with them. Shepherds do not lead their sheep into battle with wolves. They fight alone.”

—N. D. Wilson in Empire of Bones

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A Shot of Encouragement

Leaders from the Front

The image of the shepherd is an extremely important biblical picture of a “leader” (Num. 27:17) because it implies not only an intensely personal relationship between God’s people and their leaders but a style or model of leadership exemplified by Jesus (cf. Mark 6:34). The very word “leadership” is developed from the shepherd imagery, where the shepherd goes before the flock and encounters the problems of the flock first. The shepherd does not issue commands in a pyramid fashion down to subordinates who carry out his wishes like a general or admiral who stays back out of range of the conflict; nor is a shepherd a whip-carrying organizer who drives the sheep into the pen or to a particular pasture. But the shepherd knows the setting, leads the sheep, and they follow him (cf. John 10:4). Sometimes “leaders” today are like the strangers of this text, whose voices are unknown to the sheep, and they wonder why there are problems in their organizations (cf. 10:5)!

—Gerald Borchert, John 1–11, The New American Commentary, 332