Monday, May 28, 2012

Book Review (#4 of 2012) Axiom by Bill Hybels

Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs is a poorly named, but otherwise good book. An axiom is "a proposition that commends itself to general acceptance," in math/logic it's a premise accepted as true without controversy and without being deduced from logic-- it's a starting point that you build other deductions from.

Hybels is using the word basically to mean "recorded observations" or "short phrases that sum up a larger idea." It took me a few chapters to get past this, but once I did I really enjoyed Hybel's stories of life in his business-- which happens to be a church.

Hybels is founding and Senior Pastor of Willowcreek Community Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in the U.S. It strikes me that Willowcreek grew so big in part because they were well-led and well-organized to handle growth. If you're organized and excellent at what you do, then people will find you attractive. Hybels is using basic business management techniques (sometimes unknowingly) to build the infrastructure to sustain growth. Growth isn't a problem if you've got the right vision, policies, and procedures in place. Where people know their roles and can be properly assessed as to whether they're performing those roles or not. Where everyone can cite the organization's vision and purpose and everyone knows their role and can train others to do it as well. This is the backbone of Willowcreek's philosophy.

Hybels gives stories of various growth pains and how they overcame them. He gives his philosophies about proper communication, how to run meetings, etc. If you're in any business with the understanding that what you do glorifies God then you can glean from this book. I actually jotted down some notes on my iPod while I was listening.

A few comments that stood out to me:
Before you embark on a new project or producing a new product you have to ask yourself: Is it Kingdom-advancing? Can it be launched well? Will it be sustainable?  If you can't answer "Yes" to all three things, then don't do it. 

"All great leaders read," everything and anything they can get their hands on. Hybels has little patience for people in leadership positions who don't voraciously read books written by other leaders. He does it, and expects his leaders to.

"Excellence is God-honoring and inspires people." Hybels uses Romans 12:8 to support the idea that leaders are to lead with diligence, demanding more quality control of themselves than ISO or any external auditing body could ever demand. If you can't be excellent at something, should you be doing it? This reminds me of Seth Godin's "Dip."

"Admit your mistakes and your stock goes up." Good leaders admit their errors and what they've learned from them. I jive with Hybels here, if you've made a mistake in a business then investors don't necessarily want your head on a platter, they want to know that you've now learned from those mistakes and won't make them again. The best leaders aren't perfect, they're ones that learn from mistakes and are therefore more valuable than ones who haven't yet had opportunity to make those mistakes.

I give this book 4 stars out of 5. If you get past his misunderstanding of what an "axiom" is, then you'll like it.

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