Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft
Well its time for another brief book review. I recently finished Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft, published under the Re:Lit banner of Crossway books. Leadership and leadership development is a passion of mine, so when books like this come out, I’m usually on top of reading them. This one slipped by me though for a few months before I dived into it.
The reason is because this has been one of the busiest season of my life. In addition to my full-time pastoral role at Christ Church Santa Fe, I continue to serve other pastors as a Research Consultant. But also two months ago we welcomed our fourth child into the world in Luke. We are excited, but to any parent the first few months are the hardest (re-adjusting to an infant’s needs, lack of sleep, etc).
In that context, Kraft’s book was a breath of fresh air. I have to say that in the pages of Kraft’s book I did not read anything new, necessarily. Kraft is coming from a Navigator background, and myself having come up through Campus Outreach, I recognized many of the principles from other great books (thinking of LeRoy Eims, J. Oswald Sanders, etc).
But there was more. Kraft also weaved in some good principles and examples from the business side of leadership principles. While I said there was nothing new, what was refreshing was to see someone integrate the biblical principles, theology of resource stewardship, and the practical insights and outworking in a context where leadership and effectiveness is prized highly.
Kraft wrote this with a particular audience in mind – that of the vocational ministry leader. Every book needs a focus, so he should not be faulted for that. Everything that he talks about is applicable to anybody. His definition of a Christian leader I found to be quite heplful and refreshing in making room for leaders of various sizes and shapes: “A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing [that's huge] servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon [also huge] vision from God.” (24, Kindle edition).
You can tell by my inserted comments what I like most about Kraft. He both affirms the role of key/Senior/Primary leadership, but also the “with others” context that permeates the Biblical witness as well as the experiences of many business leaders. Look at Apple computers (my example, not Kraft’s): where would Apple be if Steve Wozniak hadn’t been working with Steve Jobs (or vice versa). This was the biggest strength, in my opinion, of Kraft’s book.
The other most helpful section of his book were the sections on Formation (chs. 7 & 8 especially) and Fruitfulness (ch. 11). These chapters alone are worth the cost of the book. They are filled with great principles and packaged in a way that can be readily assimilated into whatever context you find yourself engaging as a leader.
Chapter 7 is especially helpful in forcing leaders to think through not just what they have learned (past tense) but at what rate are they currently learning (present). The leadership dynamic that is most challenging – to leaders and their organizations – is resting on the laurels of previous work, accomplishments. This is seen in the drastic statement that should never be the determiner of a course of action (though it should be informative to any course of action): “In my experience…”. I am all for cataloguing experiences, learning from them and implementing them into the present for a desired future, but when they alone are what determines what is done, how its done, when its done, and why its done, we as leaders have effectively stopped growing, reflecting, learning and therefore leading. Kraft’s thoughts in chapter 7 help shatter that paradigm, and for this I am most thankful for his work.
For all of its strengths, I do wish that Kraft had spent a little less time trumpeting thoughout the book his own personal philosophy of how he is seeking to be a purposeful leader. I’ll explain that. Normally, I think its a good thing when leaders know, own and share their personal passion. For Kraft, his passion is to “develop leaders who develop leaders” essentially. I share that passion with him. But what can happen when we make statements like this is we tend to warp our definition of leaders to a particular type of leader. The effect this can have is that other types of leaders are automatically discounted, not because they aren’t leaders, or not even senior level leaders, but because they don’t fit the mold of what pops into our head when we say “a leader who develops leaders.” This is a systemic problem in a lot of discipleship-heavy ministries (especially college student ministries) that I think this rhetoric tends to merely exacerbate the problem, rather than speaking truth into it.
With that said, though, I can heartily recommend Kraft’s book, and would counsel any pastor or ministry leader to have it, digest it, and work it out, into your life and various ministries. That one complaint is not indicative of Kraft’s whole work, just a disagreement on frequency of use and wording. His thoughts, experiences and insights into leadership effectiveness for ministry leaders in the 21st century are extremely valuable and would assist anyone engaged in humbly leading others for the glory of God.
Worth it = Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft