Disclaimer. I use all the following products wth a sense of deep guilt. However, that guilt is not quite deep enough to eradicate these products from my life. Please accept my (almost)apology in advance.
I must say, for a man who spends his life in economics, teaching business, attending prestigious company boards and making vast amount of money personally, Scott Galloway’s The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google is remarkably witty. In Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership, the writers refer to the foolish wise, great leaders who employ a jester to earth them and say things that no one else dare say – the jester humanises the leader. I did wonder in reading Galloway if he wasn’t indeed something of a jester in review, because he humorously eviscerates the ethics of the original and incumbent leaders of the worlds most socially and financially influential companies, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
Like Kets de Vries and Manfred, Galloway is an educated and experienced expert in the world of leadership. I imagine that in his teaching there are detailed company studies adjacent to granular research along with source material that offers evidence for claims made. However, as with Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership, Galloway’s, The Four, is really an educated opinion piece with a subtle amount of self-marketing – the man is no fool.
There are, however, some happy takeaways.
Many years ago I read Bob Buford’s popular book about midlife crisis called, Half Time. It was a long way to tell a very short story. Basically, for men, let go of your desired utopian fantasy. Leave the young blonde and the Harley Davidson where they belong (with their husbands and in the showroom). Don’t try to be something new, be excellent at who you are. Galloway restates it. Do what are you good at, not what you are passionate about, and I for one am in agreement. Personally I find the word ‘passion’ to be one of the most appalling words in the dictionary. Whenever I hear Christian leaders use it, I find those yet-to-be redeemed parts of my person surfacing in public (and now I’m going to be flooded with passion statements). Yes, you do need a bit of passion to get you going, but it rarely lasts the distance, and something more like competence and deep worldview carry you the rest of the way. Certainly, I’ve experienced it to be the case and observed it in others.
I was also taken by Galloway’s brief section in chapter 10 with the sub heading, Got to College. It matters. I have known this most of my life. There’s a mantra in Christian circles that it doesn’t matter, but if you really want to make a difference, have a voice that’s heard and gain networks needed, then college provides a way. One of the things our denomination explores connects with Friedman’s Differentiated Leader model. When we find young people with the capacity to make a difference in their part of the community but lack the resources, we fund them through college. As Galloway points out, education is only one part of the development equation, human networks change people’s trajectory and with them their families and communities. And, yes, we send them the best Colleges’ in New Zealand and Australia.
The other comment I found interesting was Galloways observation that a person should go where their skill is valued. There’s a sense of serendipity for me because I have just recently navigated the conclusion of two pastoral ministries. Both needed to end, but neither was capable of making the move to leave. The reason? Christian Call. I hit this wall with pastors over and again. I’ve had to remind pastors that their Call (for want of a better term) is a spiritual vocation, not a geography. If God calls you to ministry, then it’s ministry to whoever crosses your path. If it’s to serve a people group, it doesn’t always mean living among them. If it’s to a nation, then it doesn’t always mean living in that nation. Often, circumstances determine geography, but not call. If your ministry is not appreciated, move on – Jesus did. In fact Jesus told the 12 and the 72 to stay where they were welcomed and to move one when they weren’t. Don’t stay where you skills and gifts and message is unfruitful. Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule, but in truth those exceptions are more complex than they are often made out to be.
Galloways emphasis on curiosity being a foundation for ongoing growth and development is obvious from much Of our reading, but he applied it well to those getting older. Stay curious about what you don’t understand or even find offensive. And alongside curiosity, manage your career. This latter observation is helpful. Too many pastors or missionaries or Christian community workers fail to realise that the world changes very quickly, so study, ongoing training and preplanned exit routes are essential for sustainable longterm ministry.
The largest disappointment of the book was the subtitle: the hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. At the end off the book I’m still not sure what that hidden DNA is? I can only surmise it as being the flare for anticompetitive behaviour with a penchant for theft and the daily hope that your direct competitors will fail leaving their technology open to bargain basement scavenging. Of course, marketing that skirts the boundaries of lying is an essential practice too, along with over-promising your product. However, if all this can be done in language that purports to be in the very best interests of the community, then all can be forgiven; unless of course your competitors try the same thing. In that case they are lying, thieving, socially disinterested blaggards with no public interest other than market share. #dnanotneeded
 Friedman, Edwin H. 2017. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. Edited by Margaret M Treadwell and Edward W Beal. 10th Anniversary Kindle. New York: Church Publishing. Loc 407ff