The first few words of Salvaged: Leadership Lessons Pulled from the Junkyard (NavPress, 2019) got my attention: “Why another crappy leadership book?” Wow! Roy Goble, author of Salvaged, must have been reading my mind! I can’t tell you how many times I have thought something like this when I’ve seen a new leadership book on a bookstore shelf or in the kiosk of an airport. Do I really need yet another book promising to give me thirteen keys for successful management or the one secret to great leadership?
But Salvaged is not just another leadership book, let alone a crappy one. Before I explain why this book is different, I should admit that Roy Goble is a friend. He serves on the advisory board of Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where I work. So, yes, I’ll admit I’m inclined to favor Roy’s book. But what I like about Salvaged are the same things that encouraged me to invite Roy onto my board in the first place. With his vast experience in business, non-profit, and church leadership, I have learned much from Roy and am glad for his friendship and partnership. Ever since our first conversation, I have appreciated his unusual candor, biblical wisdom, disarming humor, deep faith, and willingness to risk telling the unexpected or unpopular truth.
The genre of Salvaged ensures that it will not be just another leadership book, crappy or otherwise. Roy is not promoting his particular theory of leadership and then urging you to embrace it. Rather, he is telling real-life stories of leaders in action—and not just top CEOs, but leaders in all walks of life. Almost every chapter begins with an anecdote from Roy’s life. Many of these come from his background growing up in his father’s junkyard (thus the book’s subtitle, Leadership Lessons Pulled from the Junkyard). Other stories reflect Roy’s broad experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizational leadership. Every chapter concludes with a brief biblical reflection on the lesson from the focal story, along with summary “Lessons from the Junkyard.”
Roy’s stories range from the sublime (his father saving a woman from suicide) to the ridiculous (poisoned rats falling from the rafters). Yet each story suggests a leadership lesson. Often, these lessons contradict some tidbit of popular wisdom. Roy even has the guts to take on leadership guru Jim Collins, who has famously written that great leaders “get the right people on the bus.” Roy suggests that sometimes, rather than kicking the wrong people off the bus in order to hire the right people, “I’d rather look at the people on my team, try to understand their strengths and weaknesses (and mine as well!), and invest in their lives” (85). Whether you agree with Roy or not as you make your way through Salvaged, he will get you to think. And that, for Roy, is main point.
Roy’s distinctive perspective on leadership comes not only from his unusual background in junkyards but also from his unusual commitment to Christ. Roy believes that Christ is Lord of every part of his life, including his day-to-day real estate dealings. For Roy, the foundational question for every Christian in leadership is this: “If you consider yourself a leader, are you pointing people toward Christ?” (197).
Roy’s stories range from the sublime (his father saving a woman from suicide) to the ridiculous (poisoned rats falling from the rafters). Yet each story suggests a leadership lesson. Often, these lessons contradict some tidbit of popular wisdom.
Roy’s faith-shaped leadership can be seen clearly in his prioritization of people and relationships. For example, he writes:
The antithesis of caring about the management tricks is to care about people. The best managers put their people first, period (100).
If following Jesus is our ultimate goal, then let’s not allow our enthusiasm for achievement to overpower our God-given mandate to be known by our love (86).
Shortsighted leadership prioritizes ‘impact’ over relationships, while long term leadership does the opposite (113).
Roy’s stories “are about what happens at the intersection of your job and following Jesus” (xx).
Though Roy writes as one guided by Scripture, he does not see the Bible as providing easy solutions to the tough problems faced by leaders. Instead of a “magic formula or simple method,” Roy offers his own “willingness to wrestle. Tensions are everywhere when you’re a follower of Jesus and a leader” (xix). Thus, through his stories and biblical reflections, Roy invites us “to step into the contradictions and messiness of leadership, first and foremost” (xx). Beyond that, he hopes “you find yourself laughing at times” (xx).
Salvaged is a delightful and valuable book for any follower of Jesus who is also a leader in any sector of life, including but not limited to business. This book will instruct you, challenge you, inspire you, and entertain you. Because Salvaged has 31 chapters, it would be an excellent month-long devotional guide. Also, I could see Salvaged as an effective discussion starter for small groups or adult classes, both in churches and in organizational settings. Roy’s stories and commentary are guaranteed to stir up both group conversation and personal reflection.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is the executive director of Fuller’s De Pree Center and the primary writer of the Life for Leaders daily devotions. His most recent book is a commentary on the New Testament letter to the Ephesians (Zondervan, 2016). Mark and his wife Linda, an executive coach and spiritual director, have two adult children and one lively Golden Retriever.