Leaders are readers. Effective leaders are constantly growing in wisdom and insight, and one of the best ways to do that is to read – regularly and broadly. That’s why I’m pleased to publish again my annual list of good books for leaders for 2020. These are some of the books I’ve dipped into in 2019 that have helped me in my leadership. (For followers of Jesus who want to go deeper in discipkeship, I’ve also prepared a similar list of discipleship books).
So (in no order) here’s my annual leadership offering:
1. Jeff Goins – The Art of Work
This is a well researched book about vocation – about discovering your calling. After all, how do you know what you should be doing in life? How do you work out your calling? Full of insight and wisdom, Goins draws out principles he’s discovered to help live a life that matters. He shares many of his life-experiences and each chapter is illustrated with fascinating stories from ordinary women and men. He has some great and memorable one-liners, such as: ‘Failure is a friend dressed up like an enemy.’ I highly recommend this very helpful and readable book, especially for anyone in leadership.
2. David Epstein – Range
Much has rightly been written in recent years about the need for specialists. So Epstein breaks the trend by writing a book subtitled ‘How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.’ He carefully and helpfully shows that the way to succeed is by sampling widely, gaining a breadth of experiences, experimenting relentlessly and juggling many interests – in other words, by developing range.
3. Monocle – The Entrepreneur (1)
The Entrepreneurs volume 1 is a new annual offering from the UK publishers Monocle. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in starting out in business, with fresh takes on finding funding, establishing a niche, and stepping out. In this easy magazine-type read, we meet industry leaders, visit alternative business schools and hear about cities you might want to move to. If you’re looking for inspiration, tips on kitting out your office, or advice on scaling up a business or the impetus to start over, this will be a useful read.
4. Alan Moore – Do – DESIGN
This lovely offering by designer Alan Moore tells us that we are creative beings, and urges us to create things that are better and more beautiful. Carefully illustrated and in a handy size, its part of the ‘DO’ series that I stumbled across earlier in the year (and now have many in the series). It reminded me that if you’re a leader you’re a builder. You’re building something. So build well and build beautifully. That’s the simple message of this excellent book.
5. Donald Miller – Building a Story Brand
This No 1 Wall Street Journal best-seller from Miller unpacks the 7 elements of story-telling which enable people to really hear and respond to your message. Translatable across multiple disciplines (from business to non-profit) this entertaining and highly readable book is recommended by so many top leaders (from Seth Godin to John Maxwell).
6. Steve Addison – The Rise & Fall of Movements
I agree with Addison’s previous books and his blog – that significant transformation comes not from isolated pockets of local growth but from a growing movement. So I read this latest offering with great interest and was not disappointed. Here he charts a roadmap for church leaders who want to multiply disciples and churches and be part of a impactful movement. Whether pioneering on the edge, riding a wave of expansion, or stuck in suffocating decline, this book will help leaders – especially in churches – identify where they are and how they can become part of an significant movement of God’s Spirit.
7. Tom Wright – Paul: A Biography
Theologian and bishop Tom Wright brings the apostle Paul to life with this compelling and highly acclaimed biography. He traces Paul’s story from Tarsus to Rome, piecing together history and Scripture in an eye-opening and fascinating manner. A must for any leader who wants to learn from history, as well as those involved in church leadership today.
8. Howard Snyder – The Radical Wesley
Originally written in 1980, this book has been updated and is a fresh and timely addition to the growing literature on Wesley. As well as helping the reader get to know Wesley, Snyder particularly looks at the patterns and practices that caused his Methodist movement to develop, so there’s much here for transformational leaders today, especially those who work in the church and want to see the grace of God spill out and impact society.
9. Craig Ott & Gene Wilson – Global Church Planting
There’s a growing literature of good writing on church planting these days. This book is a comprehensive manual on the subject, presenting not just the biblical and theological rationale for planting but also providing many practical tools and tips that work across cultures. Clearly this should be read by all who want to think and strategise well about church-planting, but it’s also a fascinating read for anyone interested in pioneering leadership in any sphere.
10. Che Ahn – Modern-Day Apostles
Ahn writes from his vast experience of church leadership about how to encourage apostles – that is pioneering Christian leaders – in the church today. Writing from his theologically charismatic perspective, this book encourages leaders to embrace their supernatural assignment in order to bring influence and transformation so that earth looks more and more like heaven.
Finally, and most importantly, as a leader who’s identity is in Jesus Christ, the most impactful book I’ve read this year is the Bible. It will be in 2020 too. I read the Bible every day and ask the living God to speak to me, equip me and encourage me to be the person he’s called me to be. That’s why I recommend that if you don’t read any of these books in the coming year, read that one. Read the Bible.
Have a very happy Christmas. And happy reading, leaders!