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Master Leaders by George Barna

November 20, 2009

I was as excited to read Master Leaders by George Barna as I was to read any book recently. Barna has done more to help the church gather information about itself and the culture around it, analyze that data, and help the church use it to build God’s kingdom than just about anyone in history. I expected this book to be similarly helpful. It was and it wasn’t. I’ll get to that in a moment.

In Master Leaders, Barna interviews thirty of the greatest leadership experts alive today. They represent the arenas of business, church, non-profit, medicine, education, military, politics, and sports. He interviewed them regarding topics like vision, values, culture, development, hiring, conflict, character, team building, faith, discipline, and a number of other topics.

I’ll divide my criticism of Master Leaders into two categories: content and style. In terms of content, this was a superb book. It did not disappoint in any area. How could it? These individuals have forgotten more than most of us will ever know about leadership. They provided great insight into leading well. They talk about gaining and keeping the trust of those we lead. They describe handling power and authority. It really is a gold mine.

In the area of style, I was personally disappointed. In all fairness, most reviews of this book love the style it is presented. I did not. In the real world, George Barna scheduled and conducted individual interviews with the leaders represented in the book. This is where reality ends. In the book, he presents these interviews as conversations between him and these leaders in a group setting. The book is set at a fictional “Master Leaders Conference” where these leaders have been gathered to speak and Barna has been tapped to emcee the event. The “conversations” recorded in the book are set in the green room. The statements recorded are real, the story and setting are not.

I do not enjoy much fiction. This was like reading a novel. There was all this discussion and conversation. I would have preferred Barna to do what he does best: collect information, analyze it, and release it for church leaders. Just the facts, ma’am, as Joe Friday would have said.

It is a great book. I highly recommend it. It may be one of the most valuable books on leadership published lately. If you are a leader, or want to be a leader, in any arena, you need to read this book. I just did not enjoy the read.

I was provided a copy of this book by Tyndale House Publishers for review purposes.

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