Recommended Books

I have often been asked what books I would recommend that leaders read. I have often been reluctant to do so because, while I read extensively and have gained much from it over the years, I also find that many of the books I read I do not necessarily agree with everything in them so it is difficult to recommend an entire book. Nevertheless, with it understood that, by suggesting the following books, I am not necessarily endorsing everything found within their pages, I’d like to highlight some books I have found helpful.

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Books on Leadership

Blackaby, Henry and Richard.

Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda (revised and expanded)

Nashville: B and H Publishing, 2011.

This book is the summation of all that I have read on leadership. It is filled with quotes and illustrations from the leadership books as well as biographies of leaders I have read throughout my adult life. Chapter four, which discussions “The leader’s vision” may be the most important contribution of the book. Also, the definition of spiritual leadership continues to stand the test of time: “Moving people on to God’s agenda.”

MacDonald, James

Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be

Colorado:David C. Cook, 2011

James MacDonald, pastor or Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, writes this compelling book. Going against the popular trends of “connecting” with people, he emphasizes conducting church so people truly connect with God. He pushes on a number of popular approaches and makes you think. What I like most is that he strives to take a “God-focused” approach to church which, though you would assume would be common, it is not.

Bossidy, Larry and Charan, Ram.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done 

New York: Crown Business, 2002.

This is an excellent book. It zeroes in on results. There are certainly numerous issues related to leadership, but at the end of the day, they argue it is about getting the desired results. Certainly a must read for leaders.

Collins, Jim.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t.

New York: Harper Business, 2001.

This is one of the most popular books on leadership in the last decade or so. I recommend it with some reservations. I don’t like his approach to saying that leaders get the “right people on the bus” when it is applied to the church. Also, the flywheel analogy has been criticized. Further, you need to read this book along with The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig to think through the fundamental approach to Collins. Collins follows a common approach of looking at companies that “appear” to be successful and then concluding that other companies should do the same thing they are doing. Of course, church leaders often follow this same practice. It is good to follow this book up with Collins’ subsequent work, Why the Mighty Fall.

DePree, Max. I always enjoy reading DePree’s books. He has three helpful ones:

Leadership Jazz, Leading Without Power, Leadership Is an Art

His writing is not formal or comprehensive. He has been a successful businessman who, as a Christian, sought to do business in a Christian manner. He offers some gems of insight that are worth the read.

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Duewel, Wesley.

Ablaze for God.

Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury Press, 1989.

This is a great read. It looks at great Christian leaders and what set them apart. It is an inspirational look at how certain leaders sought God’s hand upon them and the difference that made. I’d recommend it to everyone in Christian ministry. He also wrote Heroes of the Holy Life which I also enjoyed.

Edman, V. Raymond.

They Found the Secret

Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960; reprint ed., 1984.

This is an older classic. It looks at sketches of some of Christianity’s greatest modern leaders and seeks the secret to what allowed them to be used so powerfully by God. He claims that after between 10-15 years, these people grew dissatisfied with the level of their spiritual success. Their desperation drove them to a deeper level of surrender before God than they had ever gone before. That was the secret. It is an inspirational volume that every minister should read.

Gardner. John. H.

On Leadership.

New York: The Free Press, 1990.

This book is getting a bit dated, but it is well written by someone who was highly involved in American government. It’s a secular book and not necessarily the first book I’d read on leadership, but serious students will eventually take time to familiarize themselves with this volume.

Godin, Seth.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us 

New York: Portfolio, 2008.

Godin is a secular marketing guru. But he has some interesting insights into how people lead in our present age. Technology and Social Media has revolutionized the way people exert influence. This book will make you think.

Heifetz, Ronald A.

Leadership without Easy Answers

Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA: 1994.

I enjoyed this book. He tries to get behind the easy answers leaders often look for and makes you think more systematically at issues. It is a secular, scholarly approach but it is a good book for making you think more deeply about the issues you may be facing.

Kotter, John P.

Leading Change

Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

This book is also becoming a bit dated. However, it is a classic work on leading change. It is a secular approach, but a helpful study. Kotter has some later books that supplement this book, such as A Sense of Urgency.

Kouzes, James M. and Posner, Barry Z.

The Leadership Challenge, Third ed

San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2002.

This is another secular leadership book. It has often been used as a textbook on the subject because of its comprehensive nature. I don’t agree with everything in it, such as its treatment of the leader’s vision. But it does cover the waterfront of leadership issues. They wrote additional books such as Encouraging the Heart, Credibility, and The Leader’s Legacy.

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