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April 5, 2003
Column #1,127

The Maxwell Leadership Bible

     Are you a businessman, a teacher, a parent, a coach? If so, you are a leader, a person of influence. But do you know how to be an excellent leader, one who inspires others to achieve more than they thought possible? To be truly effective, you must first be able to lead yourself. "Leadership truly develops from the inside out," says John C. Maxwell, author of many books on leadership who recently edited a magnificent volume, "The Maxwell Leadership Bible."

     From the failures of Adam and Eve to exercise proper leadership, to the apostle John imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos whose vision of hope has inspired generations, you can learn countless ways to be a more effective leader by reading Maxwell's edition of Scripture.

     For example, there is vast leadership wisdom in Proverbs: "Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest." Maxwell says the tiny ant teaches:

A - Attitude of Initiative: Ants don't need a commander to tell them to get started.
N - Nature of integrity: Ants work faithfully and need no outside accountability...
T - Thirst for industry: Ants work hard.
S - Source of Insight: Ants store provisions in summer.

     Isaiah 6:1-8 illustrates how God calls many leaders. After Isaiah captures a vision for God, the Lord outlines the need for someone to speak for Him: "I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" 

     Isaiah recognizes he has the ability to use God-given gifts, and is willing to step out and address the need: "Here am I! Send me."

     Are you willing to answer a call? Thirty-five years ago this week, I left a rewarding job as a TIME correspondent to answer an inner call to use my journalistic skills to help create the National Urban Coalition to give minorities a voice in city leadership to halt the despair that led to riots burning in 100 cities when Martin Luther King was assassinated. 

     Jesus taught his disciples that his style of leadership stands in stark contrast to the world's, that "the greatest must be the servant," writes Maxwell. In Matthew 20:25, Jesus tell them that secular rulers "exercise authority over" people. "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant."

     In Acts 2, Peter, who cravenly denied knowing Jesus on the night of the crucifixion, emerges as a charismatic leader. Many think charisma is mystical, almost undefinable. Not Maxwell who identifies four qualities that made Peter inspiring:

1. Confidence: Peter displayed poise and optimism as a buoyant communicator.
2. Conviction: He knew where he was going and what he had to say, and spoke from his heart.
3. Connection: He focused not on himself, but on others, connecting with his audience.
4. Compassion: Peter exuded warmth and love, giving people practical answers to their needs.

     The result? People asked, "What shall we do?" and 3,000 were converted that day.

     Maxwell devoted a page to lessons on the lack of character of King Herod of Paul's day, a grandson of King Herod at Jesus' birth. In Acts 12, Herod mistreated his citizens, executed innocent people, sought power out of insecurity, and was blinded by ego. 

     Maxwell then asks "How do we avoid Herod's trap?" To build a solid foundation for your own leadership, you must:

1. Search for the cracks: Identify where you are weak or have taken shortcuts.
2. Look for patterns that can help you diagnose character flaws.
3. Face the music: Character repair begins when you face your flaws and apologize to those you've wronged.
4. Stay teachable and rebuild: Once you face your past, create a plan to build inward strength.

     Paul's visit to Thessalonica lasted only three weeks because Jews chased him out of town. Therefore he quickly wrote letters,1 and 2 Thessalonians to equip the young believers. The author of nearly two-thirds of the New Testament instructs in the basics of Christian life: "Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing..."

     Many of us have seeds of leadership within, but don't know how to cultivate it. The Maxwell Leadership Bible offers many answers - a wonderful gift for you or a loved one this Easter.

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