Never before have so many people had access, through mobile, social and digital technology, to so much data, knowledge and collective brainpower; this connectedness gives us power to solve big problems, turn dreams into realities, create amazing products, upgrade survival to prosperity, change social policy, discover life-saving medical cures and much, much more, according to Erica Dhawan and Saj-Nicole Joni in their book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Where do the most compelling strategy presentations come from? The answer, of course, is from top tier management consulting firms, according to Dave McKinsey in his book Strategic Storytelling: How to Create Persuasive Business Presentations. So the author uses slide decks prepared by McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group and Accenture to demonstrate his principles, bearing in mind that strategic storytelling is mostly about what you do before you actually speak to a group.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Leadership can be dangerous; we who are in leadership can, on one hand, move men, women, and mountains for tremendous good; on the other hand, we hold the power to do irreparable damage to our followers by the mistakes we make, according to Hans Finzel in his book The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make. While much of the content is applicable in any leadership context, the book is primarily directed towards leaders of Christian organisations.

The author explains that the average leader faces at least five problems in learning to lead:

  • Today’s leaders replicate the poor leadership habits they have observed in others.
  • Today’s leaders often lack basic skills for common leadership demands.
  • Today’s leaders lack good models and mentoring.
  • Today’s leaders lack formal training in leadership.
  • Today’s Christian leaders suffer confusion over the conflict between secular and biblical leadership values.

Specific issues covered in the book include autocratic leadership, prioritizing tasks ahead of people, the importance of affirmation, recognizing useful mavericks, consultative decision making, delegating without micromanaging, clear communication, interpreting corporate culture, succession planning, and maintaining a future-focus.

There is room for argument about which leadership failings should make the top ten, but in my opinion this book provides a useful overview of a number of issues which are of great importance to leaders.

Leaders who have lofty dreams that influence the world also have feet of clay. That is one of the interesting conclusions drawn by Elmer Towns in his book The Ten Most Influential Churches of the Past Century. The book looks at 10 of the most significant trends in Protestant Christianity in the past 100 years and examines 10 churches which have been at the forefront of those trends. Just like the leaders of those churches, each of the trends seems to have its strengths and its flaws.

The book starts with the Azusa Street Revival and the spread of Pentecostalism, then moves on to discuss the Chinese house church movement, the Civil Rights movement, the Yoido Full Gospel Church, the Sunday School movement, the Bible-expositional preaching movement, seeker-model churches, Baby Boomer churches, Praise-Worship churches, and media-and-marketing outreach churches.

Lessons about the church which the author draws from his study of these influential churches include:

  • God is not impressed with denominational labels or systems of theology
  • God understands culture and expects us to live our faith in the culture in which we find ourselves
  • Churches have life cycles like all other living, organic things

It is easy for a church leader to develop firm convictions about the one correct way to run a church. This book helps to challenge such convictions by showing many different ways in which churches have been “successful”, but also by shining a light on the flaws in those churches and in the characters of their leaders.

As an entrepreneur, you need to accept that speed to market is the new normal, and that fast just means faster, to take advantage of the opportunities that are seemingly nowhere and then everywhere, according to Bernhard Schroeder in his book Fail Fast or Win Big. The book aims to explain how you can move faster, how you can learn whether you actually have something which could grow into a substantial company, or how you can evolve, pivot, or abandon the idea.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Major-General Lachlan Macquarie had no sooner taken up his post as Governor of the penal colony of New South Wales in 1810, than he had set about liberating convicts from their besmirched past and releasing them into a bright future, according to Luke Slattery in his book The First Dismissal. Macquarie favoured talented and able prisoners with tickets of leave: a form of early parole enabling a convict to support him or herself in a defined area.

We tend to read history as if the appointed leaders had full power and authority to control the events which occurred during their terms of office, but in Macquarie’s case there was entrenched opposition from the start, defined largely by the Conservative-Liberal divisions in political philosophy back in England. The Liberals, it would seem, were interested in seeing convicts rehabilitated, while the Conservatives were interested in maintaining class distinctions and seeing convicts suffer the full force of their punishment.

Macquarie’s downfall came in the form of Commissioner Bigge, sent to Australia in response to complaints made by the Governor’s sworn enemies. Bigge’s mission seems to have been to gather evidence against Macquarie, rather than to make an impartial investigation of the allegations. In 1821 Macquarie’s resignation was accepted, and he headed back to Britain to try to clear his name.

This is a short, elegantly written and entertaining book. It focuses on particular aspects of Macquarie’s term as Governor, including the extraordinary buildings created by the convict architect Francis Greenway, rather than on his life as a whole. I was not entirely convinced by the author’s attempt to Macquarie’s battles with more recent Australian political struggles, but the book does make a useful contribution to the field of Australian political history.

Introspection and self-reflection can help you identify your current strengths and leadership style, but your current way of thinking about your job and yourself is exactly what is keeping you from stepping up, according to Herminia Ibarra in her book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader. You will need to change your mind-set, and in order to do that you need to start by acting like a leader, and then learn how to think like a leader.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Thinking and acting in new ways is not safe for many congregations, according to Jasmine Rose Smothers and F Douglas Powe Jr in their book Not Safe for Church: Ten Commandments for Reaching New Generations. Some in the post-civil rights generations do not look like us. They wear different clothing, have various piercings, and are tatted up. They are not safe for our congregations.

The authors’ “commandments” for older church members include:

  • Thou shall chill (Be willing to let go)
  • Thou shall not front (Be authentic to God’s mission and calling)
  • Thou shall not trip (Be willing to discuss difficult subjects without getting upset)
  • Thou shall sample (Be ready to combine the old with the new)

The authors’ choice of language and the issues discussed suggest that the primary target audience for this book is leaders of African American churches. As a non-American reader I experienced difficulty in understanding some of the authors’ terminology and style, and many of the issues which they have raised are not ones which I have encountered. The overall message, though, is an important one in any context: churches need to keep listening to younger generations and including them in leadership in order to stay relevant.

Jesus did not come to start a religion; I doubt that he ever said to himself, “okay, now I am going to begin something called Christianity,” according to Mike Slaughter in his book Renegade Gospel: The Rebel Jesus. Instead, the rebel Jesus came with a renegade gospel to start a revolution that would be propelled by a countercultural community of people on planet earth. The book aims to describe what it means to live a revolutionary lifestyle when we get serious about the real Jesus.

Hard-hitting statements made by the author include:

  • It is a heresy to value, honor and prioritize a worldly system, ideology and politics over the Kingdom of God
  • Too often we allow talk-show pundits to become the genesis of our values, rather than looking to the Kingdom, will and Word of God
  • When we privatize our faith we cease to be salt and light in the world
  • We don’t pray to get to heaven; we actively work and pray to get the Kingdom of Heaven into earth
  • Faith is acting on Jesus’ directive to follow, which means that his lifestyle becomes our lifestyle
  • We act as if the narrow way belongs to the pastor, the wide way to the lost, and the middle way, somewhere between the other two, to the rest of us
  • Through the ages and continuing today, the church has used the written word as an excuse or justification for not obeying the directives of Jesus

Although it is short and written in an engaging style, this is not an easy book to read, just as the lifestyle which Jesus proclaimed is not an easy one to live. Most readers are likely to find their political and theological positions challenged by the author’s forthright assertions. If you are open to having your comfortable Christianity shaken by a prophetic voice, then this might be the book for you.

Boko Haram, once a Salafist sect based in Nigeria’s northeast, has become something far more deadly and ruthless: a hydra-headed monster further complicated by imitators and criminal gangs who commit violence under the guise of the group, according to Mike Smith in his book Boko Haram: Inside Nigeria’s Unholy War. However, the lack of faith in both the government and the military has remained one of the most important reasons why the insurgency has not been stopped.

Boko Haram began around 2002 when the charismatic preacher Mohammed Yusuf attracted a following by denouncing the corruption and injustices of the Nigerian government, army and police. Yusuf, who believed that the earth is flat and that Western education is evil, was arrested in 2009 and killed in police custody following an uprising by his followers which had resulted in over 1,000 deaths. The group has since engaged in violent attacks against police, the military, schools, mosques, churches, government institutions and unarmed civilians.

Interestingly, the group’s current leader Abubakar Shekau appropriates the rhetoric of peace when describing one of the group’s main aims: “Seeking Allah’s help to establish Sharia so that Muslims will have peace to practise their religion.” After being named a “global terrorist” by the United States, requiring his assets there to be frozen, Shekau responded in a video message: “I know the United States exists, but… I don’t know where it is, not to talk of freezing my assets there.”

To understand the environment in which Boko Haram thrives, it is necessary to comprehend the extent of corruption and injustice in Nigerian society. The army typically responds to Boko Haram raids first by running away during an attack, then by returning in numbers to slaughter some people indiscriminately and burn down houses, on the conjecture that some of them might have assisted or supported boko Haram.

Today as I write this review, the newspaper has six full pages including the front page discussing terrorist attacks in France which have resulted in 17 deaths. There is a small article on page 18 describing a Boko Haram attack on the town of Baga which may have resulted in 2,000 deaths, with all of the houses burnt and destroyed. There are plenty of photos on the Internet of burnt houses and dead bodies from Baga, but they are from an attack by the Nigerian army almost 2 years ago when the army killed about 200 people and burnt down houses as revenge after Boko Haram fighters had ambushed some troops near Baga.

With global terrorism on the rise, it has become increasingly important for all members of society to gain some understanding of the causes of terrorism. While this book reassures us that Boko Haram is essentially a Nigerian problem rather than a global problem, it does give some insight into how heavy-handed official responses to terrorist acts serve to intensify the terrorists’ grievances, resulting in amplification rather than suppression of the problem.