Pastor Andy Stanley's book Next Generation Leader: Five Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future is one of those books you want to read with a highlighter in your hands. It isn't that what he is saying hasn't been said in other motivation and leadership training books, it's the fact that he says his message in an honest, disciplined, yet loving tone. It comes off like a lecture you want to hear. He doesn't pull punches in laying out the need for focus, task priorities, strong personal ethics, vision, and continuous training.
A lot of what Stanley shares is comparable to more famous writers. For example, section four on listening, learning, and being and finding a coach is similar to the "sharpen your saw" lesson from Stephen R. Covey. Nevertheless, because Stanley purposefully gives his message a strong Christian bent toward stewardship of time, righteous personal development, and service to Christ in all we do, it becomes unique to his book and message. For a fact, Stanley gives credit to Covey, John Maxwell, Warren Bennis, Max DePree, and Jim Collins for how their pioneering works influenced his thinking and leadership development. However, Stanley provides something these trainers do not. Stanley presents biblical role models to exemplify the fact that great leaders exhibit similar traits despite the era in which they live or the challenge presented to them. He cites Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as examples of men with courage, to stand against mob mentality, even to the point of forfeiting their lives if necessary. He draws lessons from David in regard to courage after proper preparation.
Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church and four satellite congregations in Georgia. His first rule in undertaking a leadership job is to focus on only those matters you can do and to delegate the rest. (He laughs and says the leader gets the credit anyway, when things go right.) Eliminating tasks that are not the leader's primary objectives is a great lesson in success. His other points focus on: courage in times of uncertainty, since no one can predict the future with exactness; clarity of mission, since people will follow even a flawed leader if they are convinced he knows where he's going; and honesty and good character, since the leader is never off-stage but is always being examined to see if he walks his talk.
This is not difficult reading, but you will find yourself pausing to think through specific lines, lessons, and anecdotes. There is meat here. I'm going to wait a month and then read this book a second time. Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, Christian Book Previews.com