Personal Accountability: Book Review

In his book Personal Accountability, John Miller explains the premise for good leadership and responsibility in any organization begins with “I” or “me”. This concept comes in the face of many other leadership paradigms that train one to micromanage people, committees, and every other logistical model of leadership. These styles focus more on making sure there is a clear barrier between the leader and the follower. What often happens when this system desegregates is blame shifting. As a result efficiency and productivity in that particular organization plunge because the effort is spent on whom to pin the blame. Sadly, larger organizations even have boards of spin-doctors to help dissipate problems instead of owning up to a break down in communication and leadership in practice.


Rather than trying to hide our failures and make an attempt at masquerading as a perfect person to supervise others, John teaches us to rethink our philosophical approach to even everyday life. When our staff, committee, or organization do not comprehend a process we are casting, we must take this difficulty as our failure to communicate or illustrate rather then their failure to understand. Ultimately, we must personally and fully accept responsibility and ask the question behind the question: How can I help this situation?


This premise is more difficult than one may realize because it begins with a thinking change. It as often been said that it is easier to learn something than to unlearn it. I think this axiom is even true when it comes to an attitudinal change. Miller asserts that we must begin to ask what he calls “the question behind the question.” Essentially, these processes involves taking a negative situation and instead of ask ourselves a negative or incorrect question, which is often an attempt at avoiding the personal realization that we have failed, we instead ask a positive question. John provides the example: “When a big sale falls through, we wonder, “When will the customer understand we’re the best?” John says the better question to ask is, “How can I better understand the customer?” The change in thinking may be subtle but the outcome is considerable. As Web Edwards has said, “The organization that is ‘brain rich’ will win out over the organization that is cash rich!”

One may ask how does this apply to church leadership. First, just as Christ did not consider equality with God something to be grasped and took the nature of a servant, our attitudes should be the same. So the first application is in the discipline of the attitude. The discipline of this type of practice enables one to make a positive choice at a corrective action in the moment. The author takes a chapter to help us as leaders to ask these types of questions. He teaches us to avoid the victim mentality-empowering words and embrace the corrective action styled words. In the full swing of ministry duties, it is easy to become negative with the way people will treat you. Biblically based, positive thinking provides the church leader to actively pursue a goal because his or her thinking starts with himself and its result is a course of action that is both measurable and attainable. Lastly, church leaders are often viewed as examples for lay people to follow. The idea of the trickle effect in this type of leadership model may help others to catch on. What makes the concept so great is that we do not change others we change ourselves, which is a variable we have power over. Ultimately, it could result in a healthier and more volunteer-minded congregation.