After serving for the past 35 years in ministry positions and owning a small business I am absolutely convinced of the truth that everything rises and falls on leadership. Good leaders will develop good organizations; great leaders will create great organizations; and poor leaders will run their organizations into the ground. When I first learned this truth I evaluated my own leadership abilities and realized I was not a very good leader. Fortunately, leadership can be learned, and I set out to become a better leader than I was.
When I returned to school to earn my master’s degree I included a concentration on leadership. I also began to read as much as I could about leadership, both ministry related and business related. I learned some of the principles in both were transferable to the other. In today’s post I want to share some of the books that I found the most helpful to me as I began to grow as a leader. They are not in any particular order although the first one is the one that really got me started and continues to impact my thinking about leadership the most.
That book would be John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition). While attending a conference in which Maxwell was teaching through this book I first realized that my poor leadership had a negative impact on both my ministry and the small business I owned at the time. The laws he taught in that book have shaped most of my thinking about leadership. While I have profited from each of his books, none have impacted me as much as this one.
In Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t Jim Collins noted that while we have many good companies we do not have many great companies because most are satisfied with being merely good. This would probably be my second favorite book on leadership.
Leading Change by John Kotter is the best book I’ve read on the subject. Much of leadership deals with change, and many change efforts fail because the leader approached it poorly.
Up Your Business!: 7 Steps to Fix, Build, or Stretch Your Organization by Dave Anderson is just a book filled with solid advice for any leader wanting to grow his or her organization.
Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin reminds us that even the best leaders make mistakes. Every leader should read this book as a reminder that if he or she fails to pay attention to early warning signs they can run the train off the track.
As a person of faith I found Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda, Revised and Expanded by Henry and Richard Blackaby to be very helpful. I believe there is a spiritual aspect to all things including leadership. While written primarily for ministers, this book contains important principles for all leaders.
EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey combines entrepreneurial thinking with leadership. The book tells how he built his own business after going through bankruptcy and provides helpful advice and the tools for anyone who wants to be a more effective leader.
The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential is another book by John Maxwell. Leaders need an intentional plan for growing, and this book identifies some areas in which growth is needed.
If a leader wants people to follow him or her it’s important to remember that skills alone are not enough. A leader must be just as intentional about developing character as he or she is in developing skills. The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence presents a process for intentionally building character.
Too often spend a lot of time casting vision and setting goals but nothing seems to ever happen. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan gives great advice to leaders about how to actually get things done.
Here are ten books that have greatly impacted my thinking about leadership. Believe me, my bookshelves contain many more books focusing on leadership principles, but these are at the top of my list. I encourage you to plan on reading at least one or two this summer and see if they help you develop into a more effective leader.