Books sometime come at a pitch-perfect moment. I think that’s true for Perry Noble’s newest, The Most Excellent Way to Lead: Discover the Heart of Great Leadership.
Whether we’re talking about business or politics, we’re surrounded by terrible examples of leadership right now. The Most Excellent Way to Lead introduces us to a whole new paradigm for evaluating leadership.
Noble says it comes down to love.
A Fresh Approach
The Most Excellent Way to Lead reminds me of Tim Sanders’ bestseller, Love Is the Killer App and for much the same reason. It takes something we all know to be true and positions it in a way that seems fresh and relevant to the current moment.
Perry Noble is the founding pastor at NewSpring Church, hosts a popular leadership conference and podcast, and has mainstaged at Catalyst.
What’s unconventional and refreshing about his approach? He grounds it in chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
Wedding Chapel or Boardroom?
The famous passage is sometimes called “the love chapter.” Here’s a part that most of us are familiar with:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Noble points out that we’re more likely to hear the passage quoted at a wedding than a boardroom, but it belongs there too. How so?
In the passages immediately before and after, Paul talks about leadership and working together. Talking about love seems like a strange detour, right? It’s not.
“1 Corinthians 13 is primarily a chapter on how to lead,” says Noble. “Paul is continuing his discussion about leadership here, and when he says going to show you the most excellent way, I believe he’s saying, ‘I will show you the most excellent way to lead.’”
Changing the Conversation
The easiest way to see where Noble is going is to substitute “a leader” for “love” in the above quote.
- A leader is kind
- A leader is not puffed up
- A leader is not provoked
- A leader does not seek his or her own
Run out the list and compare it to the leaders we follow and depend upon every day. Can you see how this radically changes the conversation?
5 Takeaways for Any Leader
I want to focus on just five of the specific takeaways Noble teases out of this passage. The wisdom here applies to almost any kind of leadership, and I think we can all benefit a ton.
- Leaders honor others. People join and give their best to teams where they are appreciated. “If a leader does not have high regard for people on the team, the results can be tragic,” says Noble. Infighting, disloyalty, and distraction from organizational goals to name just a few.
Leaders are not self-seeking. We’ve heard a lot about servant leadership over the years. This is another angle. “So many problems in leadership can be boiled down to selfishness,” says Noble. Self-seeking leaders put their needs ahead of the team and rarely accept responsibility for negative outcomes.
Leaders aren’t easily angered. How do we respond when facing external and internal challenges? “When we allow anger to dominate the emotional landscape of our leadership, we create a culture of fear,” says Noble. This paralyzes our people and forces them to manage us instead of their mission.
Leaders aren’t envious. Nothing will ruin your leadership—or your life—like envy. Instead of focusing on what we have to offer, we focus on what we lack. We can’t celebrate wins or encourage through losses. A leader’s envy, says Noble, “paralyzes the whole organization.”
Leaders persevere. Leaders deal with distraction, deception, and discouragement. “Only people who are willing to put all they’ve got on the line to fulfill their passion make a difference,” says Noble.
None of this is new. But it’s all tested and true.
Love Is the Killer App was ground shaking because it showed how the pure and simple teaching of love can apply in a context we don’t normally think of it: business. Perry Noble’s newest has the potential to do that for leadership.
And as far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t come a moment too soon.
Question: What’s an example you’ve seen where a leader has embodied love in a meaningful way?