Why Leadership SucksTM: Fundamentals of Level 5 Leadership and Servant Leadership


There is alot of helpful advice in this book for leaders. I especially liked the sections on empowering others and modesty (specifically humility). There is quite alot to unpack in this book that will take some time to re-read and apply all the habits and principles outlined in it. If you are seeking to be a better servant leader this book is a great resource and compilation of practical usable advice in doing so. And for the low Kindle price of just $4.99 currently you really can’t go wrong with this pick. The only part of the book that was less relevant to me was toward the end in talking about economics that apply to businesses and not non-profits. Other than that most if not all the lessons were written for both business leaders and leaders of a church and/or non-profit organization.

The book is divided into four parts:

  1. Part 1: To serve or not to serve. Effective leadership characteristics require servant leadership.
  2. Part 2: Do what’s best for your organization. Discusses various aspects of organizational leadership and culture
  3. Part 3: Humility 101. Leadership principles of self-examination, apologies, authenticity, controlling and displaying emotions, and handling adversity.
  4. Part 4: Specific management situations, focusing on business leadership competencies

Here is what you will learn from Miles and experience in Why Leadership Sucks?

  1. Define leadership in general and the servant leadership style specifically.
  2. Why christian leadership matters and is a better long-term strategy.
  3. Develop leadership competencies with practical action steps.
  4. Learn from real world examples from the author’s organizational leadership experience.
  5. Quotes on leadership help highlight and introduce sections within each chapter.




The alternative to selfish “leadership” is servant leadership, or Level 5 leadership.

Level 5 leadership is uncomfortable, humbling, self-denying, painful, and counterintuitive; nonetheless, in the long term, it is the only kind of leadership that brings lasting results, genuine happiness, and true self-fulfillment.

Five attributes Level 5 leaders possess: They are self-confident enough to set up their successors for success. They are humble and modest. They have “unwavering resolve.”

They display a “workmanlike diligence— more plow horse than show horse.” They give credit to others for their success and take full responsibility for poor results. They “attribute much of their success to ‘good luck’ rather than personal greatness.”

Top characteristics of Level 5 Leaders are:

  • Drive for sustained results
  • Set up successors for success
  • Modesty
  • Take responsibility
  • Organization focus

Servant Leadership I believe that the qualities of a Level 5 leader can be summed up in the term servant leadership. This concept originates in the teaching of Christ.

The leadership lessons are divided into four sections. In part 1, I deal broadly with the topic of service, exploring the choices we make whether to serve or not to serve. Part 2 focuses on what it means to serve your organization before serving yourself. Part 3 keys in on humility, which leads to authentic authority and serving without resentment. Finally, part 4 applies these concepts to the real world: getting results in specific situations.

Part 1: To Serve or Not to Serve, That Is the Question

Great leaders ask great, thoughtful questions. We all have a strong desire to be understood, but we have a responsibility to our team to listen first.

Another way to understand others and the world around us is to continually read and learn. Leaders should be readers. It is up to us to learn and explore the world more deeply and apply that knowledge for the benefit of our family, friends, and work environment. I am glad you are reading this book, but I hope you read other books on a variety of subjects in order to give you a well-rounded view of the world.

Too often, we are the bottleneck of our organization. It is more often than not the leader’s fault, not the team member’s. We need to prioritize our own work schedule to keep others efficient and effective with their time.

If we don’t have the time to give people a response, we need to delegate more of our decisions to others.

If we as leaders can’t keep pace with others, then we owe it to the group to either speed up by increasing our efficiency or decreasing our procrastination. If we can do neither, then we must pull over, metaphorically speaking, by either delegating better or letting others lead. It is the only sane thing to do for the group. Please lead, follow, or get out of the way

Proper delegation of duties and responsibilities will allow people to learn by failure.

If you don’t delegate, you are refusing to allow them to learn and grow.

Many leaders think that empowering others means walking away from the situation and letting their followers sink or swim. We often figuratively or literally say, “Good luck!” thinking our leadership duty is done, but it’s not. We are either ignorant of the need for us to actively participate in empowerment, or we choose to be lazy, since true empowerment takes a lot of work.

The difference between those who are selfish and those who are selfless, or between those who are lazy and those who are productive, is not in their natural inclinations; the difference is the discipline in their daily actions.

Part 3: Humility 101: Authentic Authority

Be different. Be understated; allow others to underestimate you. I personally relish the fact that people underrate me, since I have the chance to exceed their expectations nearly every time.

Authenticity is doing what you promise, not “being who you are.” SETH GODIN

Be a forecaster, not a reporter. Forecast and foresee future business trends based on real-time data; don’t be the person who simply brings the data to their boss like a dog brings a newspaper to his master. Bring your analysis/ forecast to your leader, and you will be invaluable to your company team. Reporter types can be much more easily fired or let go when budget cuts are necessary. True happiness can only come from selfless leadership. So we must struggle well, since we will have trouble in this life. Life is an epic struggle, and it takes a valiant, unswerving, daily effort to be consistently successful in the various arenas of life (faith, family, friends, business, etc.).

I don’t want to forget my humble beginnings. Selling used cars, applying pest control, shipping and receiving, talking to upset customers, mowing lawns, and every job I’ve had since, has prepared me in some way for my current job, and the job I have now is preparing me for some other job in the future. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.

Part 4: Specific Management Situations: Getting Results

Don’t be small because you can’t figure out how to get big. Consider being small because it might be better. SETH GODIN

Think of it this way; why should people remember us? Are our actions worth remembering and remarking about? If not, endeavor to create habits that are memory worthy.

The sweet spot is to be second, third, or fourth to market, not first, but that is extremely hard to time properly.

Why Leadership SucksTM: Fundamentals of Level 5 Leadership and Servant Leadership