Book Review Fridays: Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft
I wanted to venture into the world of Christian leadership. I have already read many books on leadership, but aren’t distinctly Christian in its nature. Thankfully, I learned about Dave Kraft’s Leaders Who Last (Crossway, 2010). I asked a friend to buy it for me in the States. And after a period of waiting, I finally got my copy.
The Goal/s of the Book
Clearly, Kraft’s book aims to help leaders “finish well.” This is the important to him since “many leaders are not doing well and are ending up shipwrecked” (20). He cites a book by Professor Bobby Clinton of Fuller Seminary, in which the author concludes that only 30% of leaders finish well. Thus, the cover of the book states: “Only 30% of Leaders Last.” This actually what grabbed my attention and made me buy the book.
The book is “written from a Christian perspective,” and is “primarily, but not exclusively, addressed to the following types of leaders: Senior pastors, ministry staff members, volunteer leaders, Sunday school teachers, small-group leaders, leaders in local parachurch organizations.” Truly, it is distinctly Christian in nature. In fact, Chapter 6, entitled The Leader’s Calling, is even written “primarily for leaders in full-time vocational Christian ministry” (77). Obviously, the chapter deals with calling.
The book is divided into 3 parts: Foundations, Formation, and Fruitfulness. In Foundations, Kraft focuses on “leading from the inside out.” He means that a leader must live with Jesus Christ in the center of his power, as he develops a purpose and a passion, as he sets priorities, and as he develops pacing for how much he needs to accomplish and how fast he does it.
In Formation, he deals with the leader’s calling, gifts character, and growth, while in Fruitfulness, the leader’s vision, influence, and legacy.
At the end of every part, Kraft includes a Thinking Things Through, which are questions and points for discussion. This is helpful for readers since it makes them remember what they read, reflect on it further, and put it into action.
The book is also readable. Once can finish a chapter in 5-10 minutes (Consider the fact that I’m a slow reader).
Additionally, the book is full of personal stories, illustrations, and practical insights. Kraft writes:
Most of the leadership books in my library are based on surveys and studies that attempt to crystallize key principles and proven methodologies for discovering, developing, and deploying leaders. These books are written by successful CEOs of large organizations or professors in MBA programs who use the business world as their model.
In contrast, this book is written from my personal leadership journey for over forty years. It is not the result of interviews and surveys from the business sector, nor is it the product of analyzing and dissecting successful leaders from the Bible or history. Instead, it is a personal and extremely practical account of essential leadership principles I have learned and used. (21)
Kraft uses this definition of a leader throughout the book:
A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon vision from God. (25)
I agree with Kraft. But take a look at the opening sentence of Chapter 1:
As a leader, everything I am and everything I do needs to be anchored in my identity with Christ. Leadership begins and ends with a clear understanding of the gospel and being rooted in the grace of Jesus Christ as a free gift. (29, emphasis added)
When I read those words, I immediately knew that this book will talk about a Gospel-centered leadership. I’m so glad I have such a book!
Leaders are Gifted to Speak
Before I end this review, allow me to highlight a point of Kraft which I deeply agree with. It’s about speaking gifts. He asserts that the leader who least must be gifted to speak:
After many years of teaching on the subject of spiritual gifts and working with hundreds of people to help them determine their gifting, it seems the gifts of a leader tend more toward speaking and serving. Bobby Clinton of Fuller Seminary refers to these gifts as word gifts. A true leader is gifted and skilled at using words to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower followers and potential leaders.
The leader who lasts needs to have word gifts. This is not to say they don’t serve. But what distinguishes them as leaders is their ability to use words to accomplish the mission, communicate an agreed upon vision, climb the mountain, and reach the goal. (89)
He goes out on a limb with this statement:
If a person’s gift mix is not predominantly in the speaking category, that person should not consider a major leadership roll. (89)
In my experience, the leaders who made an impact on me are the very ones who have the ability to move me through words, either verbal or written, in the form of preaching or in the form of a simple encouragement.
Leaders Who Last is a Gospel-centered, biblically-grounded, and deeply practical book on leadership. Any leader, especially those working full-time for churches, will greatly benefit from this book. I recommend it to you.
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