My Top 5 Favorite Leadership Books

If you are like me, you are always looking for good reading material. Of the many 1000s of books I have read, these have shaped the way I lead and manage. I believe you will find them invaluable as well.

Emotionally Healthy Leadership by Pete Scazzero

This is a fabulous book detailing Pete’s knowledge on the internal stuff that makes for good leadership. Among the many useful things he exposes, the index of power was particularly helpful to me. I do not consider myself a person of much power, but after following Pete’s exercise, I could see where I move through the world with privilege, access, and power. Not being aware of the power we have is the surest sign that we will abuse that power.

Above all, we must create a rhythm of life that allows us to make it to the finish line. That’s what this book is about.

Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger

I must say that I am not a fan of this title (though it makes sense in the context of the book once you’ve read it), still this was a life-changing read. Using the Lewis and Clark expedition as a narrative guide, Tod wants us to examine what we do when our mode of travel (canoeing) is no longer relevant because we now have to tranverse mountains. A wealth of information that exposes and explains the change process and what we will encounter along the way.

But, we must first be committed to our own transformation if we want to lead into uncharted territory.

So, the question must be asked, what opinion or persepctive have you recently changed?
In what way are you (or I) being transformed?
What transformation can you point to in your own life? Not a simple change or adaption, but a transformation.

The truth is, most leaders cannot lead into change because they have not changed in decades.

The Effective Manager by Mark Horstman

I am a huge disciple of The Manager Tools podcast where Mark and Mike lay out their managerial philosophy and give practical, actionable advice. All of the basics of that wisdom has been distilled into this small book — One on Ones, Coaching, how to delegate, etc. This is the model I have followed, and it works. Many of my direct reports have told me that I am the best manager they have ever had. It’s because I have implemented this guidance.

It seems popular today to make a distinction between managing and leading. As if leading is glorious and adventurous while managing is committed to the status quo and stifling ideas. Hogwash! Anyone I know who has adopted that rhetoric is a failure in leading people. If we must divide leading, both of these aspects are still necessary.

Following this manager tools guidance is the minimum that a good manager should do. Are the leaders in your organization doing this? If not, that is why you are stuck and ineffective. This book will help. If you do it.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

I have never found a book so down my alley as this one. Every sentence in it is like a delicious bite culminating in a satisfying dinner with friends. It explains so much of the unproductive activity we see all around us. Activity by comitted, caring people, but ineffective nonetheless. Though the examples are getting older as it was written in the early 2000s, the wisdom is spot on.

If you have been the victim of an aimless organizarton, or an organization with great vision yet little evidence to show for it; this is the book that will unlock what is happening and how to fix it.

Crucial Conversation by Joseph Grenny

Even if we are personally integrous, have transformational leadership awareness, the tools to move an organization, and the discipline to see things through; if we cannot have the hard convesations with people along the way, we will not get far. After all, we lead people. The organizational component is important, but the people component is mission critical.

In this book you will learn how to spot a crucial conversation, how to navigate it to a resolution and then make sure that communication is happening effectively. From there it is simply practice.


I have been enriched by these books in immeasurable ways. Let me know if you are familiar with them and what you think below.


A New Definition of Leadership

Before we get started, it may be good idea to explore what we are talking about. Some people do not like the word leadership in reference to Christians. After all, we should be servants. While that is true, the Bible uses the word leader to talk about people serving the church body. What is leadership?

1 Tim 3:1 — “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”
Being an overseer is noble, not inherently wrong.

Heb 13:7 — “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
Here leaders are spoken of highly and considered a model for behavior.

Rom 12:6–8 — “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Here leadership is listed as a gift given by God. They are admonished to lead diligently.

1 Tim 5:17 —  “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
Those who lead, and do it well, are worthy of good pay and respect.

Mark 10:42–45 — Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here the kind of leadership is emphasized, but not the negation of leadership. We are to look like Jesus and serve others. That is how we lead.

I would contend that it is always right to examine ourselves and question whether what we are doing is right and just and of God. Although there are many examples of failure all around us, I am more interested in scripture holding up a mirror to my soul and being honest about what I see there. Things should look like the Kingdom of God inside of me and inside of the church. Too often they look similar to what is going on around us in culture. Leadership in my mind simply means those going first and out front, and if we couple that with a culturally-informed, conquering, superiority mindset, we get into all sorts of trouble.

Keep thinking! Continue Reading,

Year in Review — 50’s done; here’s 51!

With my big 50th behind me, I wanted to share some of my favorite things from 2018
Before I get to some of my favorite things, I want to acknowledge that this has been an emotionally tough year. Where I work, we have undergone some staff transitions and that is always hard even when people are going to follow new assignments. In the fall, my good friend Luke was diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s lymphoma and has conquered it with joy. He is the joy taser. In addition, watching other close friends go through personally tough situations is very stressful and you never quite know how to help. Maybe this seemingly increase in seriousness is part of getting older? It’s hard regardless.

Keep thinking! Continue reading…

I Never Knew You

Recently, I came across some insights in a book I have been reading that help flesh out some ideas I have been struggling to name. Let’s get into it.

The goal of spiritual disciplines

If you ask someone how to grow as a Christian they will tell you to read your Bible and pray. It’s not bad advice, but it is universally almost never followed. Few Christians read their Bible, or have an informed and rich engagement with it. Even fewer have fulfilling, meaningful prayer lives. I know all about that having walked with Jesus since I was a young child—having tried to get to know Jesus since I was a young child. Now that I am 50 I am beginning to see some things differently.

Keep thinking! Continue reading.