Leaders are Readers: The 118 Books that Helped Me Grow in 2013

Real Men ReadThe adage is true, “leaders are readers”. Likewise, I also believe that the best way to increase your net worth is by increasing your self-worth.

In today’s technology driven and fast paced society, good old fashion reading is still one of the most productive ways leaders can learn. And if you are a leader, either in the positional sense or by means of influence, lifelong learning is perhaps the second most critical aspect for a successful tenure, coming only after maintaining integrity.

As the last week of 2013 comes to a close, I have been in quite the reflective mood. When I saw that a friend of mine and another avid reader, posted a list of the books he read this year, I too decided to catalog all the books I’ve read and compile them into this list. My hope is to provide others with a “suggested reading” page of sorts, with the 118 books that helped me grow in 2013.

Essentially, my book reading can be arranged into two universal categories: ministry and leadership. There certainly are other subcategories that I read like spiritual formation, biographies, history, some fiction, business books, and the literary classics, but by in large, every title I will name can be broadly identified with one of these two general categories, if not both.

Keep in mind that these are all hard back or paperback books from my own personal library. I buy books like some women buy shoes. Investing in my spiritual and professional growth is so important to me that I even have a specific line item in my budget, just for buying books. I agree with Henry Ford who said, “A dollar put into a book and a book mastered might change the whole course of a boy’s life. It might easily be the beginning of the development of leadership that would carry the boy far in service to his fellow men.”

The following list then does not include my daily personal Bible reading and devotional time, though two works listed are biblical translations. Blog and newsletter subscriptions, academic journals, magazines and websites I follow will not appear either. Also, while there are tons of great ebooks out there, I have also refrained from including them here. However, I would encourage you to read two great ebooks by budding leadership experts of whom I have had the pleasure of endorsing and reviewing their titles.  He Said, She Said, and You?” can be found at my friend, Paul Sohn’s website Salt and Light and “The Leadership Mandate” can be downloaded at DanBlackonLeadership. I have also resisted the temptation to include audio books I’ve listened to. While this is a great way to multitask learning, this post focuses solely on the power of reading.

It is said that presidents Thomas Jefferson, who founded the Library of Congress among his many other notable accomplishments, and Abraham Lincoln, who only had one year of formal education mind you, read a book a day. In the Christian world, voracious readers and spiritual leaders like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and John Maxwell have learned to leverage their platform and expertise to gain influence on the world’s stage that transcends the church and reaches into the disciplines of business, the nonprofit sector, and international politics.

Motivational speaker, humorist, and personal development pioneer, Charles “Tremendous” Jones was famous for saying “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things, the people you meet and the books you read.” In a similar vein, Forbes leadership columnist and America’s top CEO Coach Mike Myatt says that “To the person, the best leaders I know are prolific readers. The most successful people I know consume written content at a pace that far exceeds that of the average person. If you want to improve your station in life, as well as the lives around you –read more.”

Just this morning I was consulting with an entrepreneur and friend of mine, in hopes to help him become both more comfortable and confident in his reading habits. Instead of trying to push through a book that you’re not interested in, I encouraged him to put it down and not feel guilty about abandoning it, because that’s time wasted that could be spent reading something he might rather enjoy or be challenged by. The biggest piece of advice I gave him and I’ll give you, is that motivation may get you moving, but discipline keeps you going. Create reading rhythms and stick to them. Discover the time of day that you are most alert, either in the morning, afternoon or evening, and then invest an hour or so into making yourself better. In addition, find out what you want to read and what you need to read. Different industries may have premier publications that if read, will benefit you with insider knowledge of the latest research or fads. Ask those you respect for book recommendations and browse through your local book store’s bestseller shelf. Expose yourself to new subjects and review the classics. Just keep reading, leading, and ultimately benefiting the lives of others.

The 118 Titles Read in 2013


“The Story: The Bible as One Continuous Story of God and His People” (NIV)

“The Books of the Bible: New Testament” (NIV)

“Leadership that Works: Hope and Direction for Church and Parachurch Leaders in Today’s Complex World” by Leith Anderson

“Handbook for Battered Leaders” by Janis and Wesley Balda

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King” by Herbert Bateman IV, Gordon Johnston and Darrell Bock

“Wisdom of Lyle E. Schaller: The Elder Statesman of Church Leadership” by Warren Bird

“Leading Kingdom Movements: The Everyman’s Notebook on How to Change the World” by Mike Breen

“Difference Makers: An Action Guide for Jesus Followers” by M. Scott Boren

“Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission” by David Bosch

“Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples” by Francis Chan with Mark Beuving

“Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out” by James Choung

Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Saidby Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo

“Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement” by Dave and Jon Ferguson

“Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier” by David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw

“Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible” by Arthur Glasser with Charles Van Engen, Dean Gilliland, and Shawn Redford

“Fight: Winning the Battles that Matter Most” by Craig Groeschel

“Leadership from the Inside Out: Examining the Inner Life of a Healthy Church Leader” by Kevin Harney

The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

“Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why It Matters Today” by Joseph Hellerman

“The Gospel in Human Context: Anthropological Explorations in Contemporary Missions” by Paul Hiebert

Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change” by Paul Hiebert

Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices” by Paul Hiebert, Daniewl Shaw, and Tite Tienou

“Move Your Church to Action” by Kent Hunter

“When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to Life of Miracles” by Bill Johnson

The Missional Journey” by Robert Logan

“Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret: Why Serial Innovators Succeed Where Others Fail” by Larry Osborne

The Blueprint: A Revolution Plan to Plant Missional Communities on Campus” by Jason Ma

“Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture” by Aubrey Malphurs

“Advanced Strategic Planning: A 21st Century Model for Church and Ministry Leaders” by Aubrey Malphurs

Thriving Churches in the Twenty-First Century: 10 Life Giving Systems for Vibrant Ministry” by Gary McIntosh and Daniel Reeves

The Barbarian Way: Unleash The Untamed Faith Within” by Erwin McManus

“How to Multiply Your Church: The Most Effective Way to Grow” by Ralph Moore

“Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey” by A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee

Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission” by Darrin Patrick

24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier and Happier Life” by Matthew Sleeth

“The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Church Leaders Knew about Management” by Mark Smith and David Wright

Footprints of God: A Narrative Theology of Mission” by Charles Van Engen, Nancy Thomas, and Robert Gallagher, editors

Paradigm Shifts in Christian Witness: Insights from Anthropology, Communication, and Spiritual Power” by Charles Van Engen, Darrell Whiteman, and J. Dudley Woodberry, editors

Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action” by Nick Vujicic

“Missional Moves: 15 Tectonic Shifts that Transform Churches, Communities, and the World” by Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder

“The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart” by Bob Whitesel

The Leadership Wisdom of Solomon: 28 Essential Strategies for Leading with Integrity” by Pat Williams

“Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World” by JR Woodward

The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative” by Christopher J. H. Wright


“Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and your Dream Job” by Jon Acuff

“As A Man Thinketh” by James Allen

Making the Numbers: How to Use Sales Benchmarking to Drive Performance” by Greg Alexander

The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time” by Dennis Bakke

Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest” by Peter Block

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leadersless Organizations” by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom

Transforming Business: Leading People from the Inside Out” by Paul Brown

“The Wisdom of the Irish: A Concise Anthology” by Suheil Bushrui

Focused Lives: Inspiring Life Changing Lessons from Eight Effective Christian Leaders Who Finished Well” by Robert Clinton

Strategic Concepts that Clarify a Focused Life: A Self-Study Manual Defining and Applying Focused Life Concepts to Leaders Today” by Robert Clinton

Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge: Why Some People Get Results and Others Don’t” by Henry Cloud

“The Six Sigma Revolution: How General Electric and Others Turned Process Into Profit” by George Eckes

Developing a Learning Classroom: Moving Beyond Management Through Relationships, Relevance and Rigor” by Nic Cooper and Betty Garner

Drucker on Leadership: New Lessons from the Father of Modern Management” by William Cohen

Trust: The One Thing that Makes or Breaks a Leader” by Les T. Csorba

The Effective Executive in Action” by Peter F. Drucker

The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done” by Peter F. Drucker

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization: An Inspiring Tool for Organizations and the People who Lead Them” by Peter F. Drucker

The ABC’s of Relationship Selling” by Charles Futrell

Five Minds for the Future” by Howard Gardner

True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership” by Bill George

“Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value” by Bill George

7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis” by Bill George

Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness” by Robert Greenleaf

Empowerment for High Performing Organizations” by Bill Guillory and Linda Galindo

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change” by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler

Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading” by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky

Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill

The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader” by James Hunter

Toy Box Leadership: Leadership Lessons from the Toys you Loved as a Child” by Ron Hunter and Michael Waddell

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” by Lee Iacocca

Life is Tremendous” by Charles Jones

The Truth about Leadership: No-Fads, Heart of the Matter Facts You Need to Know” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin

The Advantage: Why Organizational Healthy Trumps Everything in Business” by Patrick Lencioni

The Catalyst Leader: Becoming a Change Maker: by Brad Lomenick

Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life” by Don Maruska and Jay Perry

“The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You” by John C. Maxwell

A Leader’s Heart: 365 Day Devotional Journal” by John C. Maxwell

Think on These Things: Meditations for Leaders, 25th Anniversary Edition” by John C. Maxwell

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn: Life’s Greatest Lessons Are Gained From Our Losses” by John C. Maxwell

7 Men: And the Secrets of their Greatness” by Eric Metaxas

The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field” by Mike Michalowicz

The Heart of a Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow” by Mark Miller

The Corporate Coach: How to Build a Team of Loyal Customers and Happy Employees” by James Miller

To The Desert and Back: The Story of One of the Most Dramatic Business Transformations on Record” by Philip Mirvis, Karen Ayas, and George Roth

Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close And the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly” by Mike Myatt

Secrets of Entrepreneurial Leadership: Building Top Performance through Trust and Teamwork” by Ted Nicholas

“Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation” by Parker Palmer

Leadership: Inspire, Liberate, Achieve” by Tom Peters

Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath

Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life” by Bruce Rosenstein

Putting Total Quality Management to Work: What TQM Means, How to Use it, and How to Sustain it Over the Long Haul” by Marshal Sashkin and Kenneth Kiser

The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership” by Steven Sample

Riding the Blue Train: A Leadership Plan for Explosive Growth” by Bart Sayle and Surinder Kumar

“Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential” by Gordon T. Smith

The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management: Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace” by Hyrum Smith

Leadership and the Art of the Struggle: How Great Leaders Grow Through Challenge and Adversity” by Steven Snyder

The Great Game of Business: Unlockign the Power of Productivity of Open Book Management” by Jack Stack

The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market” by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema

Leaders Open Doors: A Radically Simple Leadership Approach to Lift People, Profits, and Performance” by Bill Treasure

“Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity” by August Turak

NOTE: The following books are of “Honorable Mention” of which I begun, read several chapters, but have not finished completely yet. Because of the worth of their content, I wanted to include them in this blog post. They are all certainly worth checking out.

“Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness” by Dan Allender

Prayer That Brings Revival: Interceding for God to Move in Your Family, Church, and Community” by David Yonggi Cho

Change is Like a Slinky: 30 Strategies for Promoting and Surviving Change in Your Organization” by Hans Finzel

The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church” by Dave Gibbons

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It, and Keep It” by Craig Groeschel

Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus” by Hugh Halter

“AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church” by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

On the Verge: A Journey into the Apostolic Future of the Church” by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson

Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs For. What Every Church Can Be” by James Macdonald

Revise Us Again: Living from a Renewed Christian Script” by Frank Viola

How to Have a Healing Ministry in any Church: A Comprehensive Guide” by C. Peter Wagner

Spiritual Power and Church Growth: Lessons from the Amazing Growth of Pentecostal Churches in Latin America” by C. Peter Wagner


Power, Prestige, and Paul’s Letter to Philippi: Perceptions and Practicalities for Pastors

Embracing Shared MinistyI must confess, that when I began reading Joseph Hellerman’s new book, “Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why It Matters Today” I was not impressed. However, this faulty first impression was in fact a wrong I committed on my end. After setting the book aside for a couple of weeks, I decided to pick it back up and read it from the beginning, as opposed to jumping to the chapter I thought would be most interesting from the table of contents, and working backwards from there, like I did in my first attempt.

Somewhat to my surprise, this method of linear reading actually proved beneficial in both my comprehension of the content, enjoyment of the material presented, and learning practical and healthy ways to deal with my own convictions with the contemporary and counter-Scriptural models of pastoral leadership.

The positive endorsements by two well respected professors and men who have mentored me in ministry from afar, namely Eddie Gibbs from the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and Gary McIntosh of the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, helped give me the encouragement to jump back into “Embracing Shared Ministry” with a new perspective in both eyes and heart.

Hellerman is a professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Talbot and is also a co-pastor at Oceanside Christian Fellowship in El Segundo, California. In his latest work, Hellerman synthesizes insights from his teaching experience with an ecclesiology elective called “The Church is Family”, along with a book by the same name, a previously published academic monograph titled “Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi: Carmen Christi as Cursus Pudorum, SNTSMS 132 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) and decades of ministry and co-pastoral experience in the local church.

Embracing Shared Ministry” is broken down into three sections: Part 1 “Power and Authority in the Roman World”; Part 2 “Power and Authority in the Early Church”; and Part 3 “Power and Authority in the Church Today”. Complete with practical case studies, historical contextualization, and implications for our current Western ministry setting, Hellerman provides a tome that begs the reader to look backward in order to gain a clearer picture for the future of moving the church forward.

By exegeting the biblical text of Acts 16 as well as Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and providing cultural background on ancient Rome, Hellerman shows that the life the Apostle was calling the new believers to in this Roman colony was very countercultural to the emphasis on honor that the empire was accustomed to. Philippi, essentially a military retirement center, conducted its society on the basis of Roman hierarchy, where those who had continued to gain more and more, and those who had, not decrease to nothing. Instead, Paul instructs the church to “consider others more valuable than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). Though “honor” may have been the ultimate goal typically strived for among the Roman providences, Paul exhorts the Christians in Philippi to seek the virtue of “humility”.

In chapter 2 of Philippians, Paul eloquently explains how Christ Jesus did not consider his equality with God something to be grasped or used to his own advantage, but rather emptied himself as a servant, thinking of others more highly than himself and acting with obedience, even to the point of death on the cross (my paraphrase). In a divine and dramatic change of events, God decided to honor Jesus and “exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name that is above every name” (2:9 NIV 2011). Therefore, Paul compares the attitude believers should have more accurately with that of a slave than the arrogance of Caesar.

In the ministry context of the first century, public honor was more important than public service. And instead of seeking spiritual encounters with God, the majority of people sought an upward change in class status through socio-economic gains. Paul’s vision for leadership then, values service over status, talent over titles, and permission through relationship over positional rule. In this “cruciform leadership” as Hellerman describes it, there is a focus on others so that the church is centered around the community. This spiritual surrogate family is led by a plurality of pastoral-elders, who operate through true servant leadership. Charting vision, providing spiritual care for the Body, and even public teaching are all activities shared by this pastoral-elder team. In order to end the separation between pulpit to pew, this form of plurality leadership is comprised of both seminary trained “professionals” and the recognized spiritually mature “laity” that functions in a co-equal and cohesive manner.

The requirements for these roles our outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Hellerman explains how at Oceanside Christian Fellowship, or OCF, three other factors are mandatory to be considered for this role: credibility or spiritual maturity, transparency, and authentic community among the pastoral-elders. Decision making in the church is done through consensus among the leaders, and because of the tight community formed between them, there is an attitude of mutual submission and communal discernment.

Hellerman does an excellent job at defining the three marks of Roman status and social class, as well as the structural and relational dynamics of Paul’s ministry context, and he illuminates the striking parallels between Acts 16 and Philippians 2. The author also comments on some of the well-intended yet biblically inaccurate views of the emerging church, and provides contemporary leadership examples from politics. Hellerman shows that neither the pastor as CEO model nor the “Lone Ranger” ministry leader has any evidence in Scripture. Instead of business literature, the church’s instruction for leadership or more appropriately stewardship, should come from the biblical text.

Embracing Shared Ministry” is not only an excellent commentary on Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, but is also a practical manual for leadership in the local church. If you’re frustrated with the American institutionalization of Christianity and want to get back to the basics of the Bible, then this is the book to read!

Note: Thanks to my friends at Kregel Ministry, I received a complimentary copy of “Embracing Shared Ministry” in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

[Guest Post] Mike Myatt, America’s Top CEO Coach

Hacking LeadershipThis guest blog post  from Mike Myatt, Forbes leadership columnist and America’s top CEO coach, begins a series of blogs I will be sharing in cooperation with Mike and in support of his newly released book “Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly”. Of all the leadership blogs and newsletters I subscribe to, the Forbes leadership column remains at the top of my list because it continually produces the highest quality content, largely in part of Myatt’s contribution. In this first post, Mike Myatt discusses the need for talent development and cooperative leadership at the C-level of every successful organization. Enjoy the post!

Rarely do I speak with an executive who hasn’t taken more than a few sips of the talent messaging Kool-Aid. Talent is a topic so fundamental to success that I discuss it at length in my new book Hacking Leadership. They don’t miss a beat as they speak of the quality of their talent as a key success metric. In fact, many of them will emphatically state that talent is their single biggest competitive advantage. If I only had a nickel for each time a CEO has told me, “We have the best talent in the industry.” Reality check – as polished as their rhetoric tends to be, the simple truth of the matter is that their elocution doesn’t match their business practices. They often talk the talk, but rarely do they walk the walk.

The sad reality is few companies seem willing to make the requisite investments needed to successfully align their actions with their management speak. It has been my consistent experience that talent is one of the most often discussed, and least effectively actioned issues at executive leadership meetings. If CEOs spent half as much time on talent initiatives as they do complaining about talent, their organizations would see significant improvement thus obviating the need for all the grumbling.

Here’s an observation for your consideration; when an executive leadership meeting is called and there isn’t a dedicated executive level talent resource present, you don’t value talent as much as you think you do. I’m not talking about inviting your HR manager to attend the meeting for a few minutes, but rather having a C-level talent executive with a regular seat at the table. If your company doesn’t have a Chief Talent Officer, Chief People Officer etc., then you are likely just paying lip service to the value of talent.

If you just downsized and gave your previously “highly valued assets” their walking papers, then you might not value talent as much as you say you do. One of my mentors once cautioned me about treating people like furniture saying that “individuals are not inanimate objects to simply be moved around and discarded, but that people require a constant investment of time and money to develop to their full potential.” He strongly cautioned against short-term hires, and believed that you shouldn’t hire anyone whom you couldn’t keep and develop over the long haul.

If recruiting, training and development is being charged to a mid-level manager whose real domain expertise lies in administration and compliance, then talent will likely become your largest contingent liability as opposed to your biggest asset.

Bottom line…if you have high employee turnover, a fractured corporate culture, a lack of leadership development and mentoring programs, regressive compensation programs, and a lack of C-level focus on talent then talent cannot be your biggest asset. Don’t hype…stop complaining…fix the problem, hack the gaps!

Mike Myatt is America’s Top CEO Coach, recognized by Thinkers50 as a global authority on the topic of leadership, a Forbes leadership columnist, author of Leadership Matters, and CEO at N2growth. His new book, Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly, is available on Amazon.