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A near fatal collapse during a routine morning run brings stressed-out businessman Michael face-to-face with a gentle soul and skilled carpenter known as J. This chance encounter develops into a life-changing opportunity as Michael comes to understand that this humble carpenter is skilled at building much more than just sturdy cabinets. He’s equally as skilled at building secure relationships, careers, and lives—just the help Michael and his challenging start-up tech business need to change direction.

The Carpenter by bestselling author Jon Gordon follows the relationship between J.  and Michael to illustrate a simple yet powerful model of leadership. This model, that J. calls “The Way”, represents three core principles—love, serve, and care—by which we live each day to the fullest and make the most of relationships. With this in mind, the story offers strong parallels to three of the Practices of The Leadership Challenge model:  Model the Way, Enable Others to Act, and Inspire a Shared Vision. 

In Michael’s case, the potential of his technology start-up and family-run business failing is undeniably frightening. But by example, J. teaches Michael to let love, not fear, dictate his decisions. When you make love a standard for your business and constituents, J. advises, people come to understand that, “We can choose to slow down instead of rushing…we can take some deep breaths, focus on love and gratitude, and change how we approach the day and the people in our lives.” For Michael’s business to succeed, he realizes that he must Model the Way by establishing a foundation of love.

The second principle, service, is how Michael can put love into action. J. explains that when you serve employees, customers, family or friends, you give them power. The more you invest in people, the more they will invest in you and your business. “When you love and serve others,” J. says, “you will become great in their eyes…they will respect and honor you. They will trust you.” As Michael applies encouragement and support to his own business model, he begins to understand the profound reward that comes when he Enables Others to Act.

Addressing the third principle, caring, the author’s message is that it’s not enough to establish a trusting and loving foundation. Michael also must learn to Inspire a Shared Vision. “When you care, you will inspire others to care,” J. explains. And through their time together, J. teaches Michael both how to show people that you care and how to build a team that cares about one another. 

The Carpenter
is a simple and illustrative story that delivers a collection of powerful and far-reaching messages that will speak to all who embrace The Leadership Challenge. By building upon the Practices of Model the Way, Enable Others to Act, and Inspire a Shared Vision, this book illustrates how carpenters and businessmen alike can craft a leadership masterpiece. 

Eli Becker is Senior Brand Assistant at Wiley where she oversees The Leadership Challenge presence on social media, assists in marketing the brand, and helps to build and maintain The Leadership Challenge website. 

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