This is my list of good leadership books to recommend for the coming year. Leaders are readers, as the saying goes, so I share each year books that I’ve found helpful over the past 12 months. The list covers a mixture of leadership topics, and I hope it will be a helpful leadership resource, especially for those serving in churches, charities and the non-profit sector.
This is one of two lists that I produce annually at this time of year. This is my Leadership List, posted here on my Leadership Blog: churchleaders.blog. The other list is for disciples of Jesus, and is posted on my Discipleship Blog: matthewporter.blog.
So here’s my selection.
1. Henry Kissinger: Leadership
I read this book after seeing it reviewed in the weekend papers and was not disappointed. Kissinger’s six leaders are not everyone’s choice, but nevertheless he helps us learn from them. They are: Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat, Lee Kuan Yew and Margaret Thatcher. All of them were formed in a period when established institutions were collapsing and he skilfully shows how the combination of character and circumstance creates history. A must read for anyone who wants to learn leadership lessons from the world of international politics.
2. Andrew Roberts, Leadership in War
Having read Kissinger’s book and hearing him interviewed by Andrew Roberts, I felt the need to read Roberts’ 2020 book on wartime leaders, subtitled ‘Lessons from those who Made History.’ Roberts focusses on nine leaders in war, drawing out all sorts of leadership discoveries. Both inspiring and cautionary, Roberts writes clearly, simply and helpfully. I valued this book so much, not the least because it inspired a leadership blog from me, entitled The Wrong Kind of Leadership.
3. Eugene Peterson: Under the Unpredictable Plant
I thought I’d read most of Peterson’s works, but I stumbled across this book first published in 1994 and found it really helpful. It’s all about vocational holiness – that is, what it means for leaders to live holy lives. Focussing on the story of Jonah, Peterson writes with great vulnerability, insight and humour about motives for ministry and the need to focus not on programmes but on spiritual pastoring of people.
4. Annie Dillard: The Abundance
Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard has written a number of great books. This contribution entitled The Abundance is a collection of her writings. Dillard is a remarkable storyteller, an astute observer of the frail human condition and a discoverer of wonder. For the leader who wants to reflect on the world and be attentive to the ordinary, Dillard’s writing will encourage and enlighten.
5. Christian Selvaratnam: The Craft of Church Planting
Christian is Dean of the St Hild Centre for Church Planting. This excellent book writes up his doctoral thesis in a very readable format, sharing insights from the training practices of the English medieval craft guilds, a global survey of 500 church planters, interviews with artists and church planting trainers and the author’s 30 years of ministry experience. Leadership development is key in every sector, not the least in church life and in church planting, If you want an interesting book on training leaders to learn the art of leadership, then this book will be helpful.
6. The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs
I was given this for Christmas last year. If you’re considering starting something new, in any sector, read this book. While it particularly focusses on businesses, there’s much wisdom here for entrepreneurial leaders in all sectors. Featuring stories of people running enterprises on every scale, inspiring insights are provided into the challenges and joys of creativity and entrepreneurship, including pieces on branding, hiring teams and designing workspaces. Easy to read and with mainly short articles and ideas, it’s a great resource from the people at Monocle.
7. Timothy Tennant: For the Body
This book offers a theology of the body. Tennant is not so well known this side of the Atlantic, but in the US he is widely respected not only as a gifted and throughout evangelist, missiologist and church planter, but also as an applied theologian. This thoughtful book offers a fresh theology of the human body, covering topics such as marriage, family, singleness, and friendship. He looks at how the human body has been objectified in art and media and offers a biblical framework for discipling people today in a Christian theology of the body. I was particularly challenged by chapter 6, on our bodies being sacraments for the world. The blurb on the cover is accurate when its says that ‘Tennent re-evaluates how we engage today’s controversial and difficult discussions on human sexuality with grace, wisdom, and confidence.’
8. Winfield Bevins: Marks of a Movement
Winfield Bevins has been my doctoral tutor and professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in recent years. He is a prolific author who understands the importance of evangelism, discipleship and church planting, and how there is a need for a new movement of discipleship-making and church planting in our day. Writing with passion and a good understanding of history and theology, Bevins’ wants the reader to learn from the Wesleyan movement, highlighting key insights for today.
9. Philip Yancey: Where the Light Fell
This is the story of the early life and formation of the writer and journalist Philip Yancey. It is a particular story, born out of unusual circumstances. It provides a fascinating insight into Yancey’s background, and explains something of why and how he developed journalistic interests in particular fields. At times it is funny, but often it is disturbing. Yancey writes honestly and thoughtfully, sharing his story.
10. The Bible
As ever, the Bible is again my final contribution. I still consider it to be the seminal leadership text and should be read by all, especially leaders in every sector of life, for Charles Dickens was right when he described the New Testament as ‘the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.’ However the best quote on the Bible that I came across this year comes from Augustine of Hippo who supposedly said: ‘When I expound the holy scriptures to you, it’s as though I were breaking bread to you. For your part, receive it hungrily, and belch out a fat praise from your hearts!’ If that’s not an incentive to read the Bible and hear it expounded, the I don’t know what is!
Happy happy Christmas, leaders.