Sep 25, 2020 in Book Review

Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders

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Abstract

In the book Practicing Greatness, McNeal demonstrates how successful spiritual leaders are consciously devoted to seven spiritual disciplines, customs of mind and heart that profile their character and competence. The book serves as a reminder to the spiritual leaders that they will either self-select into or out of greatness. The seven disciplines distilled into the book by McNeal are:

  1. Self-awareness – the most imperative body of information possessed by a leader.
  2. Self-management – the ability to handle difficult emotions, mental vibrancy, physical well-being, expectations, and temptations.
  3. Self-development – a life commitment to growing and developing one’s strength.
  4. Mission – enjoying the consent of upholding the sense of the purpose of God in your life and leadership.
  5. Decision-making – learning from failure and knowing the aspects of a good decision.
  6. Belonging – the willpower to cultivate relations and to live in the community with other people, including one’s family, mentors, friends, and followers.
  7. Aloneness – the premeditated exercise of soul-making solitude and meditation.

McNeal speaks to leaders and managers on leadership strengths. He endorses a modest philosophy change that can assist the staff members of a church or business to evade the problems that arise from people living in an environment that takes advantage of their weakness instead of maximizing their strengths. According to McNeal, many unhealthy church leaders lack this approach, though the idea is not revolutionary.

This knowledge relates to the notion of mission. McNeal has discussed this as a calling in the life of a Christian. He states that comparing a calling with specific geography or aptitude is a misinterpretation that minimizes the spiritual profundity of a genuine call. Rather, McNeal suggests that calling should be perceived as a spiritual dynamism that surpasses an occupational career path. He states that there are various ways of answering a calling, including pursuits and professions.

The book underscores the idea of endorsing a reliable personal aspect into spiritual leadership. This is a role that resorts to an enduring model. McNeal perceives cultural norms like the ones that obstruct spiritual leadership in different ways. He has mainly discussed this in the discipline “aloneness”, where he states that frenetic activity is being substituted for spiritual vitality. To counter this custom, the author encourages spiritual leaders to observe the Sabbath day and choose a day, place, and time for retreat.

Evidently, Practicing Greatness tries to discuss a narrow concept of contemporary self-help that psychology contemplates. This has been illustrated through the use of biblical character examples. Nonetheless, both biblical studies and psychology are not treated with much depth.

In conclusion, McNeal does not display a clear representation of a spiritual leader by using the multiple aspects that comprise an individual. However, he has offered his readership a generous look into spirituality and the church by consulting his understanding of leadership.

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Concrete Response

McNeal has caused me to reflect on and evaluate my life inwardly, and also feel compelled to progress in the disciplines he has discussed in the book. I used to work in Marin Headlands. One day, as I was giving instructions to a group, a boy began rolling around on the wood chips causing the rest of the class to laugh and become distracted. It took me a while to get the group to concentrate again. I remember yelling at the boy and sending him out of the class. “Get out of my class you ill-mannered boy,” I said.

On another occasion, three students were mischievous and caused the class to be distracted. I beat them and chased them too. The rest of the students complained to the head of the department who summoned me and warned me against being harsh with the students. None the less, I never learned from my failures. This caused my group to dislike me, and they demanded that I be replaced as I am not a good leader.

I feel that McNeal has written with maturity and wisdom on the important aspects of leadership. The disciplines of “self” as he has discussed it are timely to help transform today’s leadership. This book has had a great contribution to my professional development, and to me, an aspiring leader, the disciplines are essential and not optional. This is because they are an excellent treatment for the greatest leadership challenge I can ever face. As proved by McNeal, one can only succeed in leading others if they succeed in leading themselves.

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Reflection

In explaining greatness, McNeal has focused on seven disciplines as aforementioned. The author portrays them as the practices, which help in developing great leaders. However, there are various things in the book, which bothered me the most. To start with, McNeal has deliberately organized the book and the outlined principles in a certain way to build them upon each other. The principles are the chapter headings of the book. McNeal has illustrated the self-awareness discipline as the initial practice in achieving greatness.

Nevertheless, the book is short of flow and fluidity as evidenced in the introductory and closing chapters. McNeal has not provided a logical argument to support his claims. The author appears to self-proclaim the entirety of the principles, considering that he has not offered extensive research or proof to support such claims. Most of what McNeal has put forth can be considered trivial. There is no outline, apart from the seven disciplines.

In an effort to present his views about practicing greatness, McNeal has communicated and responded to a number of questions. After reading a piece of work, readers should not be limited merely to the questions asked by the author. In view of this, various questions have appeared in response to what I have read in McNeal’s book. To begin with, what is the exact measure of greatness? This question is important to those who are aspiring to be great leaders. Understanding how one can evaluate the level of greatness is vital.

The second question is what makes an individual great? How can a person differentiate a great leader from the one who is not? Lastly, can greatness become a way of life? By asking and responding to these questions, the author could have made the book more appealing.

Action

McNeal’s aim is to encourage and challenge leaders to practice greatness. As a result, readers can predict the challenge of being great, and motivation for what they have been able to achieve in pursuing greatness. After reading the book, I realized that there are some changes and developments that I need to make in my personal life, which will also help other people understand the aspect of greatness. McNeal notes that great leaders are also great managers both for other individuals and their own lives. This means that the aspect of leadership and management are closely associated.

With reference to this, one change I am going to make in my life in pursuing greatness is becoming my own manager. It is a step-by-step action that is also time-bound. The first step to achieve this is developing positive behaviors, which cultivate exceptional brain functioning. It means avoiding specific brain killers, which encompass meeting negative people, seeking special attention, and speculating on decisions. Being great starts with an apparent mental picture that motivates individuals to dedicate themselves to the greatest good. The other step is developing the act of humility.

As indicated by McNeal, in God’s kingdom, greatness is viewed as an expedition to humility. In the spiritual world, greatness can only be achieved by developing Jesus’s perception of humility. Diorio notes that practicing greatness is a procedure of developing a love for ourselves, as well as for other people. Behaviors of mind and heart are what modify our character. The last step is improving my decision-making process. Decision-making is one principle discussed by McNeal in his book. I understand that decision-making is one of my weakest points and improving it would facilitate my journey to achieving greatness and becoming my own manager. Within a time frame of three months, I will evaluate myself to see what I have achieved in this respect.

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The second action entails making the change in my ministry. Certainly, most church leaders lack most of the disciplines discussed by McNeal. In all aspects of life, and especially in a religious one, the greatness of spiritual leadership is what is required. In general, my main aim would entail helping people understand the aspect of greatness and what great leadership involves. The discipline of the mission is what challenged me most in this case. Every Christian has a mission of teaching people regarding Jesus, as well as his ways. This is my initial step in pursuing greatness, to serve people in my ministry through the mission.

The second step would be enlightening them on the various disciplines outlined by McNeal. This is vital in helping them have a clear understanding of greatness and how it can be pursued. To achieve this, a teaching program would be implemented. The teaching would be provided two days every week, and they would last for forty-five minutes. All people within and without my ministry would benefit from this. As indicated by Patterson, Pursuing spiritual greatness pleases God.

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