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Book Review – Lead Vertically by Craig Johnson

February 10, 2016

Lead VerticallyCraig Johnson says “A vertical leader sees life on a different plane and inspires extraordinary change that helps others soar above their circumstances.” Using this definition, the director of ministries at Lakewood Church in Denver, Colorado explains various ways he tries to encourage people to see beyond their current situation and challenges them to be “more” – in terms of skills, character, and influence – than they thought possible. In this regard, the book accomplishes its purpose.

The title misled this reader to believe the book was about leading those above you on the organizational chart and so a nice book about how to encourage and inspire others was far different than my expectations. While Johnson has some interesting stories that convey good principles for building and leading teams, there is little new information. Though the general content is solid and beneficial, it really tells how he has “inspired people to volunteer” and “built great teams that last” (the two subtitle lines on the book cover) simply by being a leader with strong emotional intelligence and good communication skills.

Along with the misleading title, the book had other quirks that made it less than admirable. At the end of each chapter is a section called “Looking up from the Trenches” which tells the story of various Lakewood volunteers who have thrived under Craig’s leadership. They do not seem to specifically relate to the content of that chapter and thus seem like an end of chapter boasting.

Likewise, there are a few quotes throughout the book that are downright pathetic. For example, chapter 6 (Dream Breakers) starts with the quote “…God isn’t holding a stop sign. His name has “Go” in it!” Frankly, I expect better quality Bible thinking from my six year old, not in a published book on leadership. These types of quotes only serve to further the already flaky caricature I have of Joel Osteen and his church… and finding them in a book by his director of ministries doesn’t speak well for either of them.

Lead Vertically is not a bad book… but I would not recommend you spend the time reading it when there are other books of equal or better quality both for motivational inspiration or leadership theory and practice.

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