Sunday, June 3, 2018

Book Review: Fairness Is Overrated (2015) by Tim Stevens

Fairness Is Overrated:
And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace
by Timothy Alan Stevens a.k.a. Tim Stevens

I'm instantly attracted to books that have the word ‘leadership' as its title. And the simplicity of its wordings and bright orange cover also influenced my choice to buy this book. I do judge a book by its cover and as I read this one, I'm glad I've chosen wisely. The truth is, I sometimes choose poorly (or you can say, unwise). Most leadership and personal development books that I pick up either from libraries or book fairs tend to present their ideas within the first few chapters, then basically recycle, rephrase and repeat throughout the rest of the books. Fairness Is Overrated is unlike most leadership books. It's completely practical on every page, in every situation, for every leader both in business and church settings. I praise this book together with Thom S. Rainer, "[This book] is an incredible leadership book for those in the workplace. Tim's principles are timeless; their application is life-changing. Business leaders, church leaders, all leaders: get this book and devour it immediately!" Agree, agree and amen!

Tim Stevens comes from a church leadership perspective but his 52 principles are applicable anywhere because as long as we are in the workplace – company or organization, church or business, managers or workers – we are all leaders. I love the authenticity of the stories within the book. Tim isn't afraid to share his struggles, failures, and humanity. It's one of those few great books that I read a chapter or two and have to take a small break and come back to it the next day because it's communicated so well. Each chapter has 2-3 questions to think about. So before I proceed to the next chapter, I process through the practical applications (that's why I won't lend this book to you, sorry). I haven't jotted down and highlighted a book this much since I read John C. Maxwell's books!

Tim begins the first chapter with "Live A Life With Margins" and ends with "The Five Stages of Failure." He quoted Mark Batterson that says, "You need margin to think… You need margin to have impromptu conversations. You need margin to seize unanticipated opportunities." Living a life with structured-margins is not only helps all of the other leadership principles discussed in the book but it helps leaders move through the five stages of failure (justifying, questioning, blaming, redefining, leading) faster. The first principle is a foundational principle. The other 51 principles are then organized around four categories of leadership thought: be a leader worth following, find the right people, build a healthy culture and lead confidently through a crisis.

Part One: Be A Leader Worth Following

It all starts here. Tim explains, "Nothing more can be said or should be said about leadership until we deal with the person in the mirror." It's all begins with self-leadership (that's why I have written a series of Self-Leadership in my blog); before we talk about leading the church or a business, we must talk about being a leader worth following. To look at ourselves in the mirror is not for us to look more spiritual but so that we can lead with integrity and strength in a way that is honorable. Leaders need to set appropriate boundaries so that the organization and the people that they lead will not be dragged down by needless accusations or scandals. Tim touches on why leaders need to know themselves, to be lifelong learners, to guard our families, to set boundaries in the workplace, and more.

Part Two: Find the Right People

"The success of leaders will rise and fall based on the decisions they make about the people around them." A working environment will not and cannot be positive without "solid hiring decisions." Our greatest leadership challenge is surrounding ourselves with the right people. It doesn't matter how gifted a leader is; if he doesn't have the right people around him, representing him and pulling with him, his leadership potential will eventually be capped. When Tim was asked, "What is the most important thing you did as an executive pastor?" His answer is simple, "Finding and releasing leaders." Here Tim covers how a resume is worthless, why characters can't be trained, what questions to ask, when to release staff, who should be on the team, and many more.

Part Three: Build A Healthy Culture

"Every leader is developing a culture through everyday decisions, whether intentionally or not. Culture happens. With focus and skill, any organization can have a great culture where people are standing in line to join the team, where team members are energized by the mission, and where it's not just a job – people actually do life together." There is nothing worse than working in an organization that has a bad culture. It doesn't matter how much money we make, in long-term, when we work in a toxic environment, we still come home tense and stressed at the end of each day. To me, that isn't worth it! To build a healthy culture, Tim lay downs more than a dozen principles such as having fun, always believe the best in others, how to deal with mistakes, having leadership retreats, be a good follower and more.

Part Four: Lead Confidently Through A Crisis

Every leader who stays with an organization for very long will eventually face a crisis. It might be one that impacts a small department or it might be big enough that it has a potential to take down the entire organization. It's not about will it come. But when it comes, how will you face it? We can't wait until the crisis comes to think about the essential skills we need to face it. We need to be prepared now. Don't avoid it – lead through it! "It's leading through a crisis that separates great leaders from mediocre leaders." It is leading in tough times that create the greatest leaders. John C. Maxwell said that during tough times, "Leaders stretch to the challenge, while followers shrink from the challenge." Tim equips his readers by listing out principles on how to face change, bad attitudes, character issues, communication skills, etc.

There is a lot to be considered in this book. It is well-written (a bit of a page-turner) and I'm sure to want to go back, again and again, to see how my leadership measure up. Since my copy is filled reflections, notes and answers to discussion questions at the end of every chapter, I won't lend this book to anyone. But if I see any at BookXcess bookstores again, I'll buy it and give it away. I have few new and young leaders in mind that will be greatly helped by Tim's leadership principles. Oh ya, I bought this one from BookXcess for only RM19.90. A wise investment, right?


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