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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

10 BOOKS LEADERS SHOULD READ

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I enjoy reading leadership and personal development books to continue to grow as a leader. I have a number of favorite leadership and/or business authors. They include John Maxwell, Malcom Gladwell, Patrick Lencioni, Ken Blanchard, Marcus Buckingham, Jim Collins, Andy Stanley, Mark Miller and Dave Kraft.
It was hard to come up with just a few, but here are 10 books that I would recommend that leaders consider reading.  Just click on the links to read my reviews or highlighted passages:

  1. Five Dysfunctions-001The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

This is one of the most helpful books that I’ve read and I continually go back to it time and again, often recommending it to others. It is helpful in any setting in which you work with a team – business, church, non-profit, sports, etc. In this book Lencioni follows his usual practice of using a fictional account (fable) to make his points in an interesting manner, and then summarizing those points in the last section of the book.
Like it or not, all teams are potentially dysfunctional. This is inevitable because they are made up of fallible, imperfect human beings. This is an excellent book on team dynamics and teamwork. Being written as a fable allows the reader to get a vivid picture of how a team interacts and what it feels like to be part of a successful team. This is a quick read, the author’s model is simple and the book is full of practical advice which leaders can use in building good teams.

  1. The Advantage by Patrick LencioniThe Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

This book by Lencioni gathers his most important insights from his previous books into a single volume. His contention is that the most important, and untapped competitive advantage, is organizational health. He writes that a healthy organization (and that organization may be a business, government, non-profit or a church), is one that has eliminated politics and confusion from its environment. Without politics and confusion, the healthy organization will inevitably become smarter and tap into every bit of intelligence and talent that it has.
Lencioni states that there are four simple, but difficult steps or disciplines to organizational health. In addition to the four disciplines, Lencioni states that it is essential that a healthy organization get better at meetings. This book will help leaders of an organization that either needs to “get in shape” or “get in better shape” to gain or increase its competitive advantage. Lencioni provides not just concepts, but real life examples which are particularly helpful.

  1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwellmaxwell - 21 irrefutable

This “modern day classic” is a book that I often use in mentoring relationships. Broken into 21 relatively short chapters that are practical and full of illustrations, the book is excellent for mentoring discussions with those who want to grow their leadership skills in any area of life (business, church, etc.). Christians will particularly enjoy the many illustrations that Maxwell uses from his 25 years as a lead pastor.

  1. The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell5 levels

I saw Maxwell speak on the topic of the five levels of leadership at a learning industry conference several few years ago. He writes that it is the most popular topic he is asked to speak on, but until this book was published in 2011, the material was never been put into book form.
Maxwell goes into great detail as he discusses each Level. There are assessments included to help you determine which Level you are at and also assessments that your team can take so you can see what Level you are perceived to be at by team members. As he does with all of his books, Maxwell includes throughout the book quotes and stories from some of the most successful leaders of all time.

  1. Lead Like Jesus RevisitedLead Like Jesus Revisited by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges and Phyllis Hendry

In this revised and updated 10th anniversary edition of Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, Phyllis Hodges, President and CEO of the Lead Like Jesus ministry joins the original book’s authors.  They write that “Leading like Jesus is essentially a matter of the heart. It is also the highest thought of the head, it is the principal work of the hands, and it is both expressed through and replenished by the habits.” The authors teach to lead like Jesus whether you are leading at home, at church, or in an organization.
The authors tells us that Leading like Jesus is a transformational journey. They discuss the role of the Heart, Head and Hands in this alternative way of leading. They also discuss Habits, both Being and Doing. They state that the greatest barrier to leading like Jesus is Edging God Out of our lives (EGO).
This new edition features helpful “Pause and Reflect” sections throughout the book, a “Next Steps to Leading Like Jesus Checklist”, resource list and a Discussion Guide, which is useful for individual study, but it is designed primarily for use in a group setting after everyone in the group has read the book.

  1. Good to Great by Jim Collinsgood to great-001

This modern day business classic by the author of the best-seller Built to Last, was based on a comprehensive research study of 1,435 companies, whose performance was reviewed over the period of 1965-1995. Eleven companies met the criteria of being an average company that successfully moved to being a great company based on specific criteria.
In this book, Collins describes from the research study how companies transition from being average to great companies, and also how companies can fail to make the transition. Collins defines greatness according to a number of metrics, including specifically financial performance that exceeded the market average by several times better than the market average over a sustained period of time. He found the main factor for achieving the transition to be a narrow focusing of the company’s resources in their field of competence.
Collins links the findings of Good to Great to the conclusions he reached in his prior book Built to Last which focused on the factors that define companies that survive in the long-term. He considers Good to Great as the prequel to Built to Last, as Good to Great is what has to happen before a company becomes Built to Last.

  1. The Conviction to Lead by Albert MohlerThe Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler

This excellent book by Albert Mohler blends two of my passions – faith and leadership. Mohler begins the book by stating: My goal is to change the way you think about leadership. I do not aim merely to add one more voice to the conversation. I want to fundamentally change the way leadership is understood and practiced.
Mohler’s burden is: …to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and to motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership. He wants to see a generation arise that is simultaneously leading with conviction and driven by the conviction to lead. The generation that accomplishes this will set the world on fire.
Mohler uses many examples from history (such as Winston Churchill), as well as his own leadership journey at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where he has been President for 23 years, to illustrate his points over the course of 25 short chapters. This is not a leadership book with a few scripture references thrown in, but has Mohler applying scripture to leadership. This is a book that I will refer to often and probably re-read on a regular basis. Highly recommended for all in leadership positions, inside and outside of the church.

  1. Start with Why by Simon SinekStart with Why

Sinek writes “There are leaders and there are those who lead. This book is about a naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting and communicating that gives some leaders the ability to inspire those around them. They are the ones that start with why.” The message of the book is clear, stated early and then reinforced throughout the book. Sinek believes that people don’t buy into what we or organizations do, but they buy into why we or organizations do it. He encourages us to focus on the why and put our focus on that. As in his other book, Leaders Eat Last, Sinek effectively discusses examples of those who do this well (Apple, Southwest Airlines, Martin Luther King, Harley Davidson, the Wright Brothers and others), and those who don’t (Wal-Mart, the railroads, Samuel Pierpont Langley, Barings Bank, TiVo and others).

  1. The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungymentor leader

Dungy writes that in his life and career he has seen all kinds of leaders, but the ones that had the greatest impact on his life are the select few that have been not only leaders, but also mentors. He indicates that much of what he has learned has been due to two men in particular – his father Wilbur and Chuck Noll, his head coach when he was a player and assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He indicates that mentor leaders have a direct, intentional, and positive impact on those they lead. At its core, mentoring is about building character into the lives of others, modeling and teaching attitudes and behaviors, and creating a constructive legacy to be passed along to future generations of leaders. He doesn’t think it is possible to be an accidental mentor.
Throughout the book, Dungy offers interesting illustrations from his time as a player and coach in the NFL, and he teaches the reader what it means to be a mentor leader. He ends each chapter with “Action Steps”, taking the most important learning points from the just completed chapter and putting them into action form for the reader.

  1. Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanleymaking vision stick

Stanley is pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, the largest church in the United States. Although I wouldn’t agree with him much on how he runs a church (as described in his book Deep and Wide), I have enjoyed his Leadership Podcast for several years. He has written several helpful leadership books that I’ve enjoyed (Visioneering, The Principle of the Path, Next Generation Leader and When Work and Family Collide).
He writes that this is not a book for those whose organizations have not developed their vision yet, but rather for those leaders who want to make their vision stick. He has described vision as a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be. He writes that one of the greatest challenges of leadership is making vision stick.
Stanley writes that it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that those within their organization understand and embrace the vision of the organization. However, when a leader blames their followers for not following, the leader has ceased to lead. The leader has to communicate things in a consistent and coherent manner.
He gives five steps to make your vision stick. This short book contains much helpful information about how to make vision stick.

These are 10 books that I suggest all leaders, particularly those who are Christians, read. What books would you add to the list?

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence. I’m married to my best friend. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, a manager at a Fortune 100 company, a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people determine their callings, develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. My favorite book is the Bible, and some other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul and Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

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