Issue No. 250 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting features amazing profiles on 30 heroes and heroines—and a drill-down into the myths and majesty of heroism. And special thanks to Tacoma twin brothers/ministry leaders, David and Dean Curry, for their enthusiastic recommendations of this gem. Plus, this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
If you’re looking for the perfect vacation read this summer, here’s my recommendation. Superb writing. Memorable stories. Quotable one-liners. Leadership lessons.
But first…here’s a Pop Quiz. Over lunch or dinner this week with family or friends, create a list of notables (no longer living) that would make your “Top-30 List of Heroes and Heroines.” Extra credit: write page-turning, short but ample historical summaries of each person. P.S. The publisher wants 300 pages.
Prolific author Paul Johnson did just that with Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and De Gaulle, and his contrasts, comparisons and commentaries are as fascinating as the heroes themselves. Johnson can pack more insight and interest into one sentence than some writers can blather about in a full book (or an eNews).
The biblical book of Judges: “By rights it should be called the Book of Heroes, for most of its celebrities were not judges but fighters, who enabled the Hebrews, or Israelites as they began to be called, to survive as a recognizable, independent people during extremely difficult times.”
The Hebrew language “was not only sinewy, expressive and resourceful, but peculiarly adapted to the recording of history.”
The author’s biblical heroes: Deborah, Judith, Samson and David. Growing up Baptist, I was unfamiliar with Judith (a heroine in the Apocrypha). All four accounts delivered enriching and unexpected treats.
Johnson is an equal opportunity dispenser of Hero and Heroine titles, especially with his Old Testament picks—and he explains why. The Hebrew people “tapped a physical resource which most ancient peoples denied themselves: they made full use of the brains and courage of their women.”
“What follows in this book,” Johnson writes in the introduction, “is a small selection of heroes and heroines who still evoke wonder or admiration or respect or in some cases sympathy.” He adds, “I am trying to approach the subject of heroism not so much by definition and analysis as by example.”
“Heroic behavior,” he admits, “is to be found in every age and in all kinds of places. The chief criterion is the verdict of the public and this, being arbitrary, eccentric and often irrational (as well as changeable), gives a salty flavor to the business.”
I’ve previously reviewed two other Johnson books: Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney, and his quick-read Churchill. His writing is exceptional, like his lists in this week’s book:
--Alexander the Great: his career can be divided into seven phases (in Phase 6 his army refused to go deeper into India—so much for “Great”).
--Reason #4 of 10 why Alexander succeeded: excellent planning based in part on very good maps. (Map reading, I learned, is a common competency of heroes.)
--Principle #9 from Queen Elizabeth I: practice “masterly inactivity.” She believed it was better to make no decision than the wrong one. (Hmmm…classic description of an “analytical” in the social styles system.)
Some heroes are likely on your list: Joan of Arc (from the chapter on “Exemplary Heroes”); St. Thomas More (“Heroism in the Age of the Axe”), and Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee (“Two Kinds of Nobility”).
But how about Ludwig Wittgenstein, the only award winner under “Cerebral Heroism”? Or Jayne Welsh Carlyle and Emily Dickinson (“Tortured Heroism in a Man’s World”)?
At times, Johnson’s freshness is delicately seasoned with biting humor—you dare not skip a page or a chapter. It’s a feast.
On Oliver Cromwell—who didn’t qualify: “You cannot write about Cromwell without falling into those terrible pseudobiblical cadences, rhetorical apostrophes and ironic name tags. To de-Carlyle [he made it in] Cromwell is not impossible—writers have done it. But it requires the kind of vigilance that I find irksome and which for me spoils the huge pleasure of biography. So out with Cromwell too!”
A measure of a good book—for me—is underlined passages. My markings pronounce judgment: good book! And a great book for leaders and managers.
To order the KINDLE EDITION from Amazon, click on the graphic for Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and De Gaulle, by Paul Johnson. (Note: Amazon has limited paperback copies—so order quickly if you’re heading to the beach or the mountains soon.)
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) King George III, upon learning that George Washington would leave the limelight and go humbly back to his farm after serving as America’s first president, remarked, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man on earth.” Why did King George say that?
2) Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), the English hero, is known for the warm and caring relationships he had with his captains. “He trained them in his methods—“the Nelson touch”—precisely so he could delegate maximum responsibility to them” (especially in battles). What leader might be the best delegator you have ever worked with—and why?
Choosing to Cheat - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
One of the big ideas in Chapter 9 in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets, is to agree with your spouse (or an accountability partner) to limit your “work week” to X number of time blocks.
Of the 21 time blocks per week God gives you (seven mornings, seven afternoons and seven evenings), how many time blocks do you work? And yes…include work from home, weekends, checking email, etc.
For help, download Worksheet #9.1: "The 21 Time Blocks--Toward a God-honoring Balanced Life,” at The Team Bucket webpage. Plus check out Andy Stanley’s insightful and practical book, Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?