Sunday, December 01, 2013

Book Review: I've Got Your Back A Leadership Parable by James C. Galvin

Somewhere along the way, I agreed to review this book. It came in the mail several months ago. The divorce I went through this year sapped a lot of my productivity, including my goal to read 100 books.

Books on leadership are a dime a dozen, a fact the author calls out in the Introduction (yes, I read the Introduction, Preface, and other front matter of books). The author also notes that he trashed his first attempt at this book, which was written more for his peers than the next generation of leaders.

First off, this book is mostly written for Christians, but I don't think the content should detract from non-Christians who would like to learn this framework of leadership. It's not a "devotional" book and is very practical.


The book is divided into two parts. The first 11 chapters consist of a parable. Stories are often the best form of teaching and this author uses the concept well. It follows four fictional characters starting out in their careers after college, each meeting their own challenges. They decide they need to find a mentor who can help them overcome challenges they're all facing. They are put in touch with a former Army special forces First Sergeant who agrees to meet with them on Sunday afternoons for a few months to give them assignments and review the previous week with them.

As the meeting progresses, he teaches them about "following well". Each chapter is about a different week in their lives. It shows how they apply the lessons in their jobs, discussion amongst themselves in a Friday night Bible study, and the Sunday meeting with their mentor.

Since the characters are all Christians, they each have challenges at the churches they go to. One member of the group was told by her pastor to start a singles group. She didn't want to. The pastor basically said "Well, I'm your pastor, and so I'm your spiritual authority and you have to do what I say." That is spiritual abuse. Part of the framework the mentor teaches them is the difference between following God, following government, and following men. She ends up telling her pastor no, and finding something else to do.

Obviously, there is a happy ending.

The "I've Got Your Back" title comes from a story the mentor shared about leading special forces teams.

I've come to believe that a leader doesn't find a position; the position finds the leader. This book validates that belief. You can lead as a follower. I had to get a professional recommendation written for a Master's program I'm applying for. The person who wrote it said that I'm capable of "leading up". That felt good to read. You can lead even from the lowest level by helping those who lead you achieve their goals and objectives.

The second part of the book is "A Concise Theology of Leadership and Followership". The author says it isn't necessary to read the parts in order. I did. This is the part where non-Christians might start to lose the book, at least in the beginning as the author lays out the theology of leadership, which is formalizing the structure taught in the parable.

Once the groundwork is laid, the author puts out his model. There are 3 types of followership: following God, following authorities, and following men. In his model, the first two aren't negotiable unless the authorities (Type II) overextend their power or overreach their authority. Following men, the 3rd type of following, is always negotiable and governed by free will.

The author explains that a pastor can operate at both Type I and Type III. You can refuse to follow him at Type III.

He also lays out 5 levels of following, from a subversive follower to a fully engaged and supportive follower, as well as the acronym REAL, which stands for Responsible, Ethical, Authentic, and Loving.

It's a good, short book, and probably best suited for the Christian market, but if you're not a Christian and still want to learn about leadership, you could probably get a lot from this short book.

You can get information on the book and a downloadable .pdf study guide at the book's website.

You can buy the book in paperback or Kindle version from my Amazon affiliate account.

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