New Book Collects Wisdom of 'Master Leaders'

Tony Dungy, Mike Huckabee, and John Townsend are just a few of the big names who share how top leaders think and make decisions in George Barna's latest book, Master Leaders.

Based on interviews with 30 of the country's top leaders, the book covers a wide range of topics including humility, vision, values, conflict and confrontation, building teams, discipline, handling pressure and criticism, and power, among others.

Barna described the list of participants as a "leadership fantasy camp." He highlighted that collectively the leaders have more than 1,000 years of direct leadership experience, have published over 300 books, and have sold more than 50 million copies of those books.

"This is a group of superstars that knows what they're talking about," Barna said. "My job was to capture their wisdom and pass it along to those of us who want to grow in our leadership capabilities."

On the topic of humility, Patrick Lencioni, head of a management consulting firm whose clients have included executives of AT&T and Microsoft, discussed the importance of leaders not seeing themselves as on a pedestal, but instead understanding that they are in an interdependent role.

Ken Blanchard, a sought-after leadership expert, defined leading people as serving those people well, and putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the leader.

On hiring and firing, Sam Chand, president emeritus of Beulah Heights Bible College in Atlanta, said a person is hired for what they know and fired for who they are, or in other words for character problems. Approaching the issue from a different angle, Hollywood producer Ralph Winter emphasized the importance of having detailed contracts with co-workers because "contracts are what you turn to if it doesn't go well."

The book also included advice from business leaders, such as Don Soderquist, former COO of Wal-Mart, and military leaders, such as Army General Robert Dees.

"[T]he best leaders see themselves as servants and truly respect other people," commented Barna, who conducted all the interviews. "These leaders did not perceive a division between 'us' and 'them,' the indispensable ones and the worker bees…they acknowledged that a leader without a great team gets little, if anything, accomplished."

The author of 44 books on leadership, faith and culture also noted he was "struck" by how many top leaders stressed the importance of listening, whether it is to other leaders, to their co-workers, or to the marketplace.

"Effective leadership requires the ability to ask the right questions, listen to a range of people and opinions, and then convert what they have heard into strategic action," Barna summarized.

Barna, who is best known for his Christian surveys, said he interviewed the leaders for his own personal leadership growth, but wrote the book because he felt what was said could help other leaders as well. He described the interview process for the book as "one of the most exhilarating" experiences of his life.

The book, Master Leaders, was released this week.