There is certainly no famine of books, resources, and experts that are dedicated to the subject of leadership. Even a cursory examination of the shelves of your local bookstore will reveal volumes dedicated to the science, practice, and styles of leadership. One common theme found in this myriad of leadership advice and counsel is to give the “best practices” of leadership. In other words most leadership material comes from the “in order to succeed you must do this” point of view. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It is refreshing however to see the matter of leadership approached from the other side. In their new book, “Leadership Lessons; Avoiding the Pitfalls of King Saul”, religion professors Ralph Hawkins and Richard Parrott examine leadership from the “worst practices” perspective.
Hawkins and Parrott write, “One of the unique features of this volume is that, in it, we take a sustained look at the life of a single, individual leader. This approach has a number of benefits. First, rather than arbitrarily selecting five or ten points upon which to pontificate, the selection of a key figure out of history and the examination if his life and leadership to allow the problem behaviors under consideration to emerge naturally. In other words, the ten behaviors examined in this book were not arbitrarily selected nor were they invented by the authors. Instead, they emerged from Saul’s own life story. They are rooted in reality. This means that, while these self-defeating behaviors are, to some extent, Saul’s own character defects, they may also be, to some degree, common or universal problems. A second benefit of tracing the foibles of one leader throughout his lifetime is that we are able to get a long-term perspective of how these problems arise and how they play themselves out if they are not addressed.”
Hawkins and Parrott shine the light on the life of Saul, Israel’s first king and expose the gross leadership failures of the man whom God chose to be the earthly leader of His people. (Reviewer’s note: It should not be concluded that God is to blame for Saul’s failure. It should also not be concluded that God was wrong in His choice of Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul’s failures were his own; the result of his free will.) Although King Saul is credited with some small successes, the authors term his overall reign as a “net-negative”. Hawkins and Parrott list the ten areas where King Saul suffered leadership failure. They term these as pitfalls. They are:
1. Saul Failed to Handle Authority Humbly.
2. Saul Failed to Break Out of His Tendency to Isolate Himself.
3. Saul Failed to Think Before He Spoke.
4. Saul Failed to Act When the Time Was Right.
5. Saul Failed to Lead the People, but Let Them Lead His Instead.
6. Saul Failed to Promote or Make Necessary Changes.
7. Saul Failed to Love the People.
8. Saul Failed to A Be True to His Own Ethics.
9. Saul Failed to Admit Failure or Concede to David.
10. Saul Failed to Consult God.
In each of the sections the authors make their case for Saul as a failed leader. Using the biblical account of Saul’s reign, Hawkins and Parrott demonstrate, through Saul’s actions, words, and attitudes that he is an example of who not to follow. Included in each of these ten pitfalls are modern-day examples of the same leadership style and failure. The authors provide solid examples of both secular and spiritual leaders who failed in the same manner as Saul. Action steps are included in each of the ten sections that help the reader to avoid making the same mistakes Saul did. Finally, each pitfall contains a section for group discussion and personal evaluation. Leadership Lessons is a fantastic book. In places it is brutally honest. In others it offers much needed encouragement. Still in others it passionately calls all leaders to understand the weight of their assignments. I feel strongly that this book should be required reading by everyone who holds a leadership position; most especially ministry leaders. It is that good. The term “must read” is over-used and is often inaccurately applied to many books today. However, this is one of them. In the beginning the authors asked the question, “Why study a failed leader?” They quote leadership expert Denis Waitley as their answer. He writes, “King Saul resides within each of us, and this marvelous book provides a magic mirror reflecting the essence of how to turn failure into the fertilizer of success.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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.”