“Leaders are readers.”  Somebody said that.  It was probably someone who was trying to sell books to a crowd of leaders.  But there is some truth to it.  The best leaders are growing, they are flexible and the most common way to learn is through reading and listening to new material that will stretch us beyond where we are.


So in 2015 I set a modest goal to read 12 books.  And by “read” I meant finish, get all the way through, not simply “retinize.”  I’m gratified to admit that my reading goal was one of the goals I actually achieved.  I finished 17 books in 2015.




1.  “Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great:  The Arts of Leadership and War.”


My top book from last year also had perhaps the strangest title.  Ancient Greek historian, Xenophon compiled Cyrus the Great’s memoirs of how he united the Medes and the Persians.  The leadership principles Cyrus discloses are amazing and effective.  It was a quick read, it helped me understand the history behind some Old Testament books like Ezra, and I am partial to anyone who’s middle name is, “The Great.”  (For years I made, I mean, encouraged my little sisters to address me as, “The Great” but somehow it never stuck.)


I asked members of several team s I lead to read, or at least skim tyhis book and bring their favorite principle for discussion during our regular meetings, and it was always a winner.


2.  “Give and Take” by Adam Grant.


Organizational psychologist and Wharton professor, Adam Grant looks at people through three lenses:  Are they givers, takers or matchers.  His insights on performance, the incredible benefits of generosity and even how to deal with people who are only out for themselves are incredibly helpful.  I love his take on Michael Jordan too.


3.  “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson.


“The Circle Maker” is now the best book I’ve ever read on prayer, surpassing, “Too Busy Not to Pray” by Bill Hybels and even, “How to Pray” by R.A. Torrey.  Batterson’s simplicity of “Dream Big, Pray Hard” helped me take my prayer life to a new level.


4.  “4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney and Sean Covey.


The 4 Disciplines 4DX) is a comprehensive guide to goal setting that makes a difference.  We’ve been using these techniques in coaching and cohorts within our network with excellent responses and results.


5.  “Talk Like Ted:  Nine Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by Carmine Gallo.


Gallo examines the top “Ted Talks” and what those speeches have in common.  It ‘s a helpful guide for teaching teams and presenters.




“Leading Church Multiplication” by Tom Nebel and Steve Pike. 


It is my honor to mention this book because perhaps my friend, Tom Nebel, will now feel obligated to buy me dinner.




“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.


There’s an eighteen minute Ted Talk with this same title that I hear is good.  And there’s a five minute version that probably is even better.  The book was a disappointment considering the acclaim Sinek’s book, “Leaders Eat Last” received.  “Start with Why” seemed to be a wordy plug for Apple products that even my friends who love Apple found tedious.  I went through this with one of the leadership teams I serve on, and after numerous requests to move on to something more valuable, we all decided to finish it just so we could brag about completing an arduous task together.


That’s my list.  What’s yours?  I’ve upped my goal for reading in 2016 so I need your suggestions. 


Feel free to send me your list of top books of 2015 at  (Only submit a “Bottom Book” if you have five top ones!)  We will add your ideas and try keep the article updated.


Happy Reading!




Here are some of the “Best Books” sent in by contributors:


From Stephen A. Füssle, Lead Pastor, The Awakening Church, Maui, HI


“Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D.

For the sake of saving space, I'm just going to give you my top pick for this year. Bill Gates recently put out an article of his top five picks. He reads 60 books a year, wow what an insatiable reader.   One of the books that I purchased off his top five list was Mindset by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D.   It has proven to be invaluable in the season and relates heavily to our identities in Christ and how that affects leadership.


Mahalo & God Bless You!


From Jason Wolfe, Lead Pastor, Life Church, Lancaster, PA


Here are my best books from 2015


1. Leadership Pain by Samuel Chand.   "If you're not bleeding, you're not leading."


2. The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  By John Maxwell


3. The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster.  By Darren Hardy


4. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller


5. Simply Good News by N.T. Wright


Least Favorite - "A Fellowship of Differents" by Scott McKnight.  While I loved the premise of the book (diversity and the Church) - and there are a couple great concepts in it -  the book seemed to wonder far off its focus.  Should have been less than half its length.  I forced myself to finish it (something I rarely do) hoping I'd find some gold at the end of the rainbow.  No such luck.


From John Pearson, John is the president of John Pearson Associates, Inc., a board governance and management consulting firm in San Clemente, California


Great article!


Leadership Briefs: Shaping Organizational Culture to Stretch Leadership Capacity, by Dick Daniels

TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, by Dan Busby

The Attacker’s Advantage: Turning Uncertainty Into Breakthrough Opportunities, by Ram Charan

Peter Drucker’s Five Most Important Questions: Enduring Wisdom for Today’s Leaders, by Peter F. Drucker

Broken and Whole: A Leader’s Path to Spiritual Transformation, by Stephen Macchia

A Year With Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership Effectiveness, by Joseph A. Maciariello

Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, by John Ortberg

Breakthrough: Unleashing the Power of a Proven Plan, by Randon A. Samelson

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, by Simon Sinek

Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work, by Michael Lee Stallard, Jason Pankau, and Katharine P. Stallard


Here's a link to my list:






From David Bennett, Financial Guru and Excel Board Member


Here's the first ones that come to mind:

Books – Talk like TED, Give and Take, Lead with a Story, Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great:  The Arts of Leadership and War, 4 Disciplines of Execution


Non-leadership stuff – The 80/10/10 diet, The life changing magic of tidying up, Misbehaving, the road to serfdom


From Brian Burman, Gateway Church, Visalia, CA


Decisive:  How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip Heath and Dan heath