Leaders Are Readers

Leadership is about reading. I have come to understand the truth behind the statement that leaders are readers.

When I was 19 reading was for academics and old people. Twenty five years on and I have disciplined myself to be an avid reader, maybe 25-30 books a year, on all manner of subjects, with the bulk being about leadership, people, Christianity and communication. I want to be better at these and reading is a great way to discover how to become better. I also read my Bible through every year as well.

It all started in 1996. Four books changed the way I thought about what it meant to be a leader and how to handle people and I have not stopped learning since…

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell 
Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels

Books open up the mind to new ways of thinking. Sometimes it’s the whole thing that challenges me, other times it’s just been a chapter, an idea or maybe just a sentence. It doesn’t matter. What is important, is that I am always on the lookout for ways to increase my understanding of what it means to be a leader, and that’s about more than the practicals. It’s about continuing to learn about the type of person I need to become to be a great a leader.

For these reasons I will not stop reading.

When I look at my bookshelf here are some of my favourite reads…..if you want a copy check out my list here

Spiritual Leadership by J Oswald Sanders
Walking with God Through Pain & Suffering by Timothy Keller
Quiet by Susan Cain
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
Great by Choice by Jim Collins
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas À Kempis
Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman
Making Idea Happen by Scott Belsky
Mere Christianity by C S Lewis
Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code by Samuel Chand
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono
Linchpin by Seth Godin
Axiom by Bill Hybels

What’s your favourite leadership book and what did you learn from it?

My November Reading

How to Lead by Jo Owen. Some might say that leadership books are ‘ten-a-penny’ and they are probably right. That makes finding and reading the right ones all the more challenging. So let me help you…this is worth a read.

Who am I to comment but I found the format of the book a great way to present the challenge of leadership – looking at what Owen considers a clear leadership framework. NOt to give the game away but analysing each of these aspects from the position of a leader within an organisation was refreshing and insightful. Much to think about, I underlined a lot. I am hopeful that having read the book I can put what I am learning into practice. To not do so would be foolish. This is a recommended read.

The Third Man Factorr by John Geiger. When I picked this book up from the library, read the summary on the back, I was intrigued. The whole idea of a ‘third man’ being with you, a guardian angel perhaps, mixed with the Shackleton story, it got my attention.

In one aspect the book did not disappoint – it was packed with stories, and I enjoy great stories but after a while, I just got bored. Maybe if I was a climber, explorer, someone who put themselves in places of extreme conditions and loneliness it would have connected with me more. I think the main disappointment was a lack of definitive opinion from the author, unless I just missed it.

It’s not often I say this but I would not recommend this book

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick. To read a Pastor’s story is to share in their journey. The honesty, vulnerability, the trust they must put in God is challenging and encouraging.

‘If we have the audacity to ask, God has the ability to perform’. That is some opening statement. It captures the heart of the writer and makes you want to believe for the same. I need to pray more Sun Stand Still prayers.

‘Extraordinary moves of God begin with ordinary acts of obedience’. It’s encouraging to think that I don’t need to be extraordinary. I just need to be me. I need to have the courage to ask God for the impossible – much like Joshua did.

‘A Sun Stand Still prayer should be so big that you could never achieve it on your own, but it shouldn’t be bigger than your ability to believe that God can achieve it’. For every Pastor, church leader and Christian, this book should be on the pile to read.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I haven’t read all of Gladwells books but enough to know what to expect. Excellent research which leads to some incredible stories that demonstrate the points being made.

The 10,000 hours of practice for the elite was eye-opening. How those at the top don’t work just harder or even much harder that everyone else. The truth is they work much, much harder. It’s not that you don’t know this but when you read the stories behind…it becomes SO obvious.

Hard work. The one thing we try and avoid but it does seem that if you want to succeed then it cannot be avoided. ‘If you work hard enough and assert yourself and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires’. Great read and would recommend.

Get your copies here

My October Reading

The L Factor by Ian Jagelman. I heard him teach this and thought it was genius then. Reading it just reminded how important understanding this stuff really is. His basic premise ‘ministry builds people but leadership builds people’.

Worth a read for the 5 levels of leadership, the process of helping people progress along the leadership journey. It has certainly encouraged me to think more strategically. If the structure is right, then growth can occur because people are not only being released into ministry but they are also being developed as leaders too.

Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono. Didn’t know what to expect from this book. I had heard about it and was intrigued about this new approach to facilitating meetings. It seems so simple. Can it really make such a significant impact as described in the book?

The premise of parallel thinking as opposed to the more argumentative model that happens in meetings is easy to understand. The aim of focusing everyone on the same type of thinking means you don’t jump around, it’s not a battle ground, it’s less about who shouts the loudest. Plus everyone gets a chance to speak and offer thoughts. Creativity can increase. Problems can still be raised. Decisions can be reached faster, which means a better, more efficient use of time too. Looking forward to trying it out. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson. Was keen to read this book after reading Primal and I wasn’t disappointed. The to be on a wild goose chase speaks of not really knowing where you are going and that is a great picture of living life being led by the spirit.

My life is not one of great adventure. I don’t feel that I have done any great feats yet. Reading the book certainly challenged me to become more determined to live life being on a wild goose chase. To allow God to take me where He needs to go. To let go of my plans and trust God more. To be willing to let go of an old identity in order to take on a new one. Makes me wonder where I might end up and what I’ll look like when I get there.

Building a Strategic Church by David Beer. I am naturally a thinker. I am more introvert, analytical and prone to planning. I don’t mind systems and processes. Due to this, I really enjoyed this book.

David Beer brings all his experience as a local church pastor in the UK to the table and shares a whole bunch of ideas that can help any leader to think more strategically. Loved the statement – ‘The church that doesn’t care who gets the credit, as long as people are ministered to in the name of Christ, is the strategic church and the church that God uses.’

The Empowered Church by Ian Jagelman. Leadership v Ministry is always an intriguing balancing act. Often the things that we enjoy doing as Pastors are more ministry based, the tougher stuff is more the leadership aspect. Both are important but one builds people, the other builds the church.

This made the whole issue of building the right kind of leadership team a higher priority. Ian Jagelman talks how the leadership team must be equally committed to a common task, goal and working approach. That each person must not be heard saying ‘this does not relate to me.’ If this is the case then you just have a working group, not a team. That’s a challenge when many are prioritising their own area of ministry but then that’s not the only thing you are looking for.

I would happily recommend all these books. Get your copies here.

What I’ve Been Reading…

Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. Really enjoyed Sticky Church so had high expectations for this. It is with regret that I was somewhat disappointed. That’s not to say that what is spoken of in the book isn’t helpful & instructive.

Two things which I will remember:
When it comes to leadership – insist on spiritual maturity. Sometimes we can be so desperate for new teams that we forget to look for the qualities spoken of in the Bible. On reflection, maybe we choose the line of least resistance rather than asking the difficult questions.

Secondly, I loved the letter that Larry ‘maybe’ sent to someone about giving. Priceless. And definitely the way many Pastors and Leaders would love to speak. Interesting though how we often react to people incorrectly without gathering all the facts first. Extremely useful practices to remember.

Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll. This was another book that I had high expectations for, because Vintage Jesus has become such a useful resource for me. Thankfully, the book did not let me down.
Let’s be honest – who am I to critique Mark Driscoll who is after all the ‘ultimate’ teacher.

The simplest thing to say is – great questions and great answers. I know that I will use this resource over and over again.

A definite addition to any church leaders bookshelf.

59 Seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman. Absolutely loved this book. Full of useful tools that can help you understand yourself, others and how to get the most from life. Plus they only take 59 seconds.

We enjoyed measuring our fingers to discover the masculine/feminine traits that may mean we display.
We learnt that having a plant pot in the office boosts creativity.
We discovered that you should close your eyes when asking questions of people to fins out if they are liars.

I even learnt about something called the pratfall effect. This was a fun and informative read. Definitely worth a look.

Your Secret Name by Kary Oberbrunner. I won this from a twitter contest. The title intrigued me.

I enjoyed the journey that Kary took me on and how he entwined his journey with that of Jacob. The struggles and pains. The way God is always there leading us to the point of discovery, to the Secret Name that only He can speak over you. An easy read, very honest, and because of that, extremely encouraging.

[What have you been reading lately?]

Life, Leadership & Other Stuff

Time for a change. Well a small one anyway.
An opportunity for a refocus. To start writing again.

Talking life – in all it’s many facets, experiences and opportunities. As a Pastor at Xcel Church. As a husband. As a dad. Each one exciting. Each one challenging. Each converging at times.

Talking leadership. Building church. Cultivating an environment where potential is released. Creating community. Loving God. Loving people. Loving life.

Talking other stuff. The journey, experiences. Thoughts from wherever – reading, teaching, people. Plus the fun stuff.

This is who I am. How I think.
Hoping that you will contribute aswell.

Book Review: The Encore Effect by Mark Sanborn

416W7LgBwsL._SL210_This book has been nudge into action. We all like to think we are remarkable but in reality most of us are probably a long way short of remarkable.

As with You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader, this is an easy, yet powerful read. Mark Sanborn pushes you to think about how you are performing, outlines the difference a remarkable performance can make but thankfully doesn’t leave it there. He then provides you with the tools to be able to change your performance and generate an ‘Encore Effect’.

Commitment – Professionalism – Skills – Values – Character

Preparation [our actions, our preparation – speaks louder than our words when it comes to how much we love what we do]
Performance [build your reputation and your brand on authenticity, not hyperbole]
Polish [never stop]

Although the content is not new, I really didn’t mind. If ‘my life is a performance that I am in charge of’ then I’ll take all the help I can get to provoke me into some action. Whether I am remarkable and worthy of an encore…I don’t know. But I will work on it! I want to be the kind of person who inspires others through my performance, instruct others through my teaching and help others improve through my encouragement.

Encouraged to know that our ‘performance can be elevated’. That it’s not about where we’re at, or even where we started….it’s about the potential we possess and how, with God’s help, we can release it.

I would definitely recommend this book. Only if you are up for a change!! Get your copy here.

What Are You Reading At The Moment?

Went to Borders the other day. Love going there. Never really get to fully appreciate it when the girls are with me but I did get the opportunity to browse and checked out a few books that look interesting even alllowing for the pile I still have left over from last year!

Leaders are readers. You want to gain some knowledge then you need to be reading and I don’t mean just general fiction. You need to read stuff that will challenge you, inspire you, stretch you, teach you something. Start small. Don’t be intimidated by how much others read – have your own plan, set your own goal and go for it!

This is the last 10 books I have read – what do you think?
Vintage Jesus
Turning Points
Starving Jesus
Wake Up Dead Man
Sticky Church
Moving in the Spirit
Meatball Sundae
Holy Discontent

After any good recommendations. Come July I will be switching my emphasis from reading my Bible in BIG CHUNKS to reading from an ever increasing pile of books.