Selected Books on Leadership (May 2012)

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A good friend of mine reached out to me earlier this week asking what resources I have been reading lately on leadership. I get questions like this a lot, and not just about leadership, but issues relating to culture, the spiritual life, theology and so forth. I also get lots of questions about news sources I read every day, as well as blogs. Such questions have prompted me to add a new category to my site, one entitled “Books & Articles.” The following resources are my initial response to the question about leadership reads.

Bill Hybel’s Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, is worth its weight in gold. It is a simple book in many ways, but full of insightful convictions about leadership rooted in Hybel’s years of experience as a pastor and statesman. It focues on four primary categories of leadership: vision and strategy, teamwork and communication, activity and assessment, and personal integrity. Not only is it great for personal digestion, but it is a great work for group discussion and training. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Crawford W. Loritts, Jr., has a book entitled, Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence. It is a tremendous work, not too complicated, focusing attention on the common characteristics of brokenness in the life of the leader, uncommon communion with God, servanthood, and radical and immediate obedience. In so many ways this book is not about leadership per se, but about the leader, which makes it especially helpful.

Drive, by Daniel Pink provides great insight into intrinsic motivation over and above extrinsic motivation. It makes the case that most organizations and businesses continue to stimulate success based upon carrot-and-stick motivators, giving inordinate amounts of time and energy to quantifiable goals. Meanwhile, the emerging generations are motivated toward success by other things like having the gift of autonomy, even within a team environment, personal mastery and ownership, and the amplification of purpose and vision. Carrots and sticks are nice, but the more instrinsic motivators are transforming select organizations in ways that far exceed extrinsic-focused companies.

Poke the Box, by Seth Godin, is a simple and provocative read about initiating positive transformation. Godin invites the reader to fail big, assuming that taking risk shakes things up in ways that move individuals and companies toward new horizons. Most of us live and breath inside of boxes we create, and Godin challenges us to poke such things, to break out of our boxes and creatively head into new places that help us rise above the shared “widgetry” of our age. This last sentence is my own assessment of his book using some of the language, but it captures the gist of it rather well, I think. I recently took some of the ministry team leaders that I work closely with through this work. By the way, Seth Godin’s blog is a brilliant riot.

Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne is one of the best books ever written on church leadership culture and values, and I am saying that as a man who has dozens and dozens of books about such things sitting wearily on my shelves. If you want to get penetrating insight into board dynamics, purpose and focus, and conflict processing, Sticky Teams is a must. And if you can get Larry Osborne to visit with your leadership team, you have made a profound investment.

Lastly for now, I am a big believer that the best leadership books are actually biographies, for then you can glimpse into the lives of real leaders and see their good, bad and ugly in a rather comprehensive context. With that in mind, and I have mentioned it before, Eric Metaxas’ work entitled Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, may be the best biography I have read in years. You must get it. If nothing else it will invite you to a level of courage and conviction that you did not even know you needed.

Obviously I have more. These are just some of the ones I have devoured repeatedly over the last few months, going back to them again and again, which, I suppose, is why they stood out over and above others.

 

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