I was recently invited by Tim, the pastor of discipleship at NLCC, to leader a seminar on the practical tools of leadership for a small group of awesome leaders at our church. Leaders are readers, so I wanted to give them a list of great books to read beyond the seminar (Bryan the Intern made a spontaneous and humorous plug for Leading Up--it's only $10, and he's got a stack in his office!).
Here are five great books I'd recommend for growing and maturing in ministry leadership:
In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Henri Nouwen). My favorite book on leadership. Nouwen's tiny treatise on Christian leadership is filled with humbling and life-giving reminders that our leadership cannot be driven by relevance or strategies, but by prayer and servanthood. I make it a point to read this book every autumn season during the calm before the storm of ministry takes over my life.
A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (Edwin Friedman). Perhaps the most challenging and insightful leadership book I've read in the past five years, Friedman's thesis centers on the concept of self-differentiation, the idea that one's personal being and emotional capacity have far more impact than tools or strategies. To remain in the orbit of emotional-engagement and emotional-independence is the key. Knowing one's own DNA and having a healthy sense of self allows for leaders to have the patience and emotional wherewithal to handle the fast-paced and emotionally distressing conflicts of any system, or as Friedman puts it, "from parents to presidents." This was an influence book for the central concepts of Leading Up, namely the idea of humble confidence vs insecure pride.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Journey (Alfred Lansing). If you haven't heard about Ernest Shackleton's story, here is the condensed version: Shackleton led an Antarctic expedition that got shipwrecked on ice flows and stranded in the frozen wilderness for over a year. Traveling across the ice flows to the ocean, the explorers landed on a tiny uninhabited island, then sent a party out into the open ocean with no navigational equipment in the hopes that they would find civilization thousands of miles away and send back a rescue team. Spoiler alert: every single member of the expedition survived. Shackleton's decision-making, morale-boosting, and risk-taking in the face of impossible odds kept the men alive.
Next Generation Leader / Visioneering (Andy Stanley). This might be cheating, since this is actually TWO books, but both Next Generation Leader and Visioneering are filled with practical and Biblical leadership insights from Andy Stanley, that NorthPoint guy. These feel like companion books, as the former deals with the character and quality of a leader while the latter helps hone and communicate a leader's vision.
StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Tom Rath). This little book is different from other personality tests I've taken (DiSC, Meyers-Briggs, etc.) in that it offers a unique and comprehensive look at one's innate strengths. These are the hardwired leadership talents and gifts, the natural tendencies that a leader brings to the table. Discovering my five strengths, embracing them, and finding ways to utilize them in my life and ministry has proven to have countless benefits and blessings.
These are the five significant books on leadership that I've read thus far. I know there are more great leadership books out there! What are your favorites? Share in the comments!