With so many great books being published every year, it’s hard to know which ones are worth your time. And, of course, sometimes the best books on a topic aren’t new at all—but they may be new to you. So I decided to do a quick round up of my three favorite leadership books and ask five friends of SmallGroups.com to weigh in as well. These books are perfect to help you grow as you lead or to use with your team. You’ll find both new books and classics. To start us off, here are three of my favorite leadership books:
From the first moment I heard Wiseman speak at the Global Leadership Summit years ago, I was entranced. She made a very simple statement that immediately resonated with me: some leaders are multipliers and others are diminishers. Put another way, some leaders multiply the talent on their team by empowering and releasing their teammates, while other leaders diminish the talent by controlling and micromanaging their teammates. That’s a stark difference. But Wiseman doesn’t stop there. She actually writes about how to become a multiplier—and it’s easier than you might think. Her newly updated edition also includes an important chapter on the “accidental diminisher.” After all, who thinks they’re the bad guy? So Wiseman gently explains how you can spot diminisher qualities in yourself. Based on research, Wiseman finds that multipliers are able to get two times the results from their team. In ministry, we’re always looking for ways to maximize our resources. Don’t overlook the importance of maximizing your biggest resource: your teammates.
To be honest, I found this book because I experienced an emotionally unhealthy leader who was burning up teammates left and right. I wanted to know that there was another way to lead. I’d read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality years before, and I wondered how the principles might apply directly to leadership. I deeply appreciate what Scazzero writes about knowing yourself well so you can handle others’ emotions well, creating realistic and life-giving boundaries, and building a healthy team culture. Plus I love that he brings attention to leading well as a single person—a topic few leadership books tackle, especially in the Christian world. Take the test (republished from the end of the book) to see where you stand on emotionally healthy leadership.
This is a favorite of mine to use with teams. Discovering my top five strengths gave me words to describe some of the work I enjoy most (like the strength called Activator—basically, having a knack for getting others motivated and acting on goals). It also gave me instant understanding of why I sometimes felt frustrated with my teammates. When discussing next steps, the path forward always seemed clear to me, I couldn’t understand why my teammates didn’t see it—until I discovered my strengths (I was the only one with the Strategy strength—the ability to find a way through when there doesn’t seem to be a path). Using the book with new teammates gives me immediate feedback about what aspects of our team they may excel at. Currently, my team has a chart highlighting each person’s strengths posted prominently so we can see how we how together we cover a lot more strengths than any one of us alone.
Five More Leadership Books You Can Use
I asked five advisors and contributors of SmallGroups.com to share their favorite leadership book, and they came up with some great recommendations:
This is an older book, but continues to be a favorite of mine because its findings were driven by data derived from thorough research. The companies have changed, but the leadership principles described in the book have not. The book is based on what took place in companies that had a history of doing well, but then took off, far outperforming comparable companies in their industries. The book identifies nine common elements that distinguished the 11 “great" companies from the “good” comparison companies. You’ll have to read the book if you want to know the elements but, many if not all, are surprising. If you’ve read this book, I’d also recommend Built to Last, the predecessor to Good to Great, and Great By Choice, the follow up to Good to Great. —Steve Gladen of Saddleback Church
I love this book because it explains God’s sovereignty in shaping a leader throughout his or her life. Clinton has studied hundreds of historical, biblical, and contemporary leaders and has noticed certain patterns in their development. He identifies six distinct stages in the formation of leaders. He then invites the readers to go back and examine their own lives to determine how God has been working in each stage. The book has helped me see God’s sovereign hand in my own life and have a better grasp of where God is taking me in the future. But it’s also helped me encourage younger leaders to be faithful right now in whatever stage they are, knowing that future success in leadership is determined by obeying God in the little things and overcoming the tests he brings our way. —Joel Comiskey is author of 2000 Years of Small Groups
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
As a recovering people-pleaser working in ministry where most presented opportunities are "good," I struggle with setting healthy boundaries that honor and protect all areas and people to whom I'm called. Boundaries helped me prayerfully examine the root cause of why I was saying “yes” to the wrong things and forgoing the margin to say “yes” to the things I really wanted to and needed. With the overarching message that I'm responsible for myself but to others, Boundaries forced me to consider that I was stifling the growth of those I lead when I take on their responsibilities for them, and led me to thoughtfully examine how I spend my time, energy, and emotional resources. I am a better leader when I stop trying to orchestrate everything around me, and instead focus on the people and tasks that are mine, allowing others to grow into their leadership potential by taking on the people and tasks that are theirs. My family and friends are grateful to see me again, too. —Laura Holland of National Community Church
Chip and Dan Heath
I love this book because it talks about how to effect change when you're not in a position to simply dictate change. Most of us as small-group pastors can't just declare that groups will be a priority at our church. We can't unilaterally decide we need another staff member. And we certainly can't make people join groups. The Heath brothers lay out a three-part strategy for how to effect change in an organization when you don't have the positional authority or the resources to make change happen. —Will Johnston of Eastside Christian Church
Ruth Haley Barton
During my first year in vocational ministry, a wise mentor told me, “The best thing you can do for the people you lead is to take care of your soul.” Ruth Haley Barton would agree. It is so easy to let the busyness and business of ministry consume us and become a substitute for our personal intimacy with God. This book is a compelling invitation to examine our souls and pay attention to what God is doing deep within us through this “crucible of ministry.” An experienced ministry leader and president of The Transforming Center (a ministry to pastors and Christian leaders), Barton is an excellent guide along this challenging process of excavating and healing our souls. She provides insights gleaned from the life of Moses, spiritual practices, prayers, and encouragement on topics unique to leadership in ministry. This book is also a helpful tool in increasing our alertness of God’s activity in our lives so that we can participate in His transforming work, not just for our good but for the good of those we lead. —Carolyn Taketa of Calvary Community Church
—Amy Jackson is managing editor of SmallGroups.com.