#153: Leaders are Readers: My Book List for 2016

You may be familiar with the quote by Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States; “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Leaders Readers

I like to read, but often my reading list gets pushed down on my to-do list. It doesn’t seem like sitting and reading is actually “doing” anything. So I decided to do some research to see if reading really is important for leaders.

Of course, it took only seconds for Google to bring me an article from the Harvard Business Review that supports the thesis that leaders are readers. In this article, For those Who Want to Lead, Readauthor John Coleman, cites 10 purported benefits for leaders who are readers. Among them:

  1. Reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight.
  2. Reading builds your vocabulary.
  3. Reading increases abstract reasoning skills.
  4. Reading is an efficient way to acquire and assimilate new information.
  5. Reading across fields is a good way to increase creativity.
  6. Reading increases the likelihood that you will be innovative.
  7. Reading can make you more effective in leading others.
  8. Reading can increase your verbal intelligence making you a more adept and effective communicator.
  9. Reading can improve your empathy and increase your organizational effectiveness.
  10. Reading can help you relax, reduce stress, and improve your health.

I’m sold. Reading is important for leaders. Reading more will help me be a better leader. It seems what you read, in terms of genre, is not nearly as important as just reading!

I’m going public with my reading list for 2016. My goal is to read at least 10 books during the year. I’ve got 14 books on my list so far, and I hope to get some books recommended to me that I can add to my list:

  • “Turn the Ship Around—A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders” by L. David Marquet. Marquet is a Navy submarine captain who tells how he turned one of the worst performing submarines in the fleet, into the best.
  • “The Obstacle is the Way—The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday. This book was recommended to me by a reader of this blog who leads every day in his role as a police chief (thanks, John!).
  • “Quarter Life Calling—How to Find Your Sweet Spot in Your Twenties” by Paul Sohn. OK. Full disclosure, I have already read this book twice. The first reading was Paul’s draft. The second reading was the galley proofs. The finished print version released January 18, 2016 and I can’t wait to read it again!
  • “Will it Fly—How to Test Your Next Business Idea so You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money” by Pat Flynn. I am a Pat Flynn fan. He is a wonderful young man who is among the most successful internet business men around. The book will be released in February 2016.
  • “There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics” by John Maxwell. I admit, I am a Maxwell fan. I’ve read several of his books and enjoyed them all immensely. A book on ethics seems like an especially important read after some of the news this year.
  • “Marketplace Christianity” by Robert Fraser. I started this book some time ago, and for some reason set it aside so I’m going back to chapter 1 and starting over.
  • “Do Something—Make Your Life Count” by Miles McPherson. Miles delivered a powerful sermon as a guest pastor at our church. When I found out he had written a “motivational, get yourself in gear” kind of book I ordered it. Sometimes I need a little motivational kick in the backside!
  • “Leadership Beyond Reason—How Great Leaders Succeed by Harnessing the Power of their Values, Feeling, and Intuition” by Dr. John Townsend. I received this book as a gift after Dr. Townsend spoke at gathering of business people at our church. After hearing him speak I can’t imagine this book will be anything short of fantastic.
  • “Business as Mission—The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God” by Michael R. Baer. Baer’s premise is Christian businesses have an opportunity to impact the world for Christ in a remarkable way. I agree wholeheartedly and I want to learn what he thinks about how this can be achieved.
  • “The Gospel Goes to Work—God’s Big Canvass of Calling and Renewal.” by Dr. Stephen Graves. I’m not sure how I came to hear about this book, but since I am in the middle of rediscovering God’s calling on my life I am looking forward to what I learn from this book.
  • “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years—How I Learned to Live a Better Story” by Donald Miller. I first learned about Donald Miller when I watched an interview Michael Hyatt did with him. The interview was fascinating and I expect the story he tells in this book will be exceptional.
  • “Essentialism—The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. This book has been recommended to me by friends at least 4-5 times over the past year. Perhaps my friends are trying to tell me something! Anyway, this book comes with rave reviews so I am looking forward to reading it.
  • “Start with Why—How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek. This is another book that came to me via recommendations of friends. I watched Simon’s TED talk, and I was enthralled like millions of others who have watched it on YouTube. A quick look at the jacket cover suggests this could be a life-changing read.
  • “Dance Until It Rains—Inspiring Stories of Everyday Persistence” by various authors. This book is a compilation of stories written by a variety of authors telling someone else’s inspiring story. This could be a tear-jerker.

Well, that’s it for now. My list of books to read in 2016. I suspect if this year is anything like last year, I will add several books to the list during the year. If I don’t get them all read this year, they’ll roll-over to next year. It’s all about being a learning leader who reads.

If you have a favorite book that you’ve read recently let me know!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Never was that more true than this week. I’d love to hear about any books you’ve read recently that you really enjoyed.


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Category: Skills | Leadership Development |

#152: The Handsome Farmer Who Got Fired for Stealing and Lying

Once upon a time in a land far, far away lived a handsome young farmer and his beautiful wife. They had a Perfect Boss, who had given them the responsibility and authority to care for the Boss’s garden.

Handsome Farmer

Until one fateful day when a particularly sneaky fellow came into the garden. This sneaky fellow was charming and charismatic. He convinced the young farmer and his wife that their Boss wasn’t perfect; that He had deceived them.

This sneaky fellow caused them to doubt the word of their perfect Boss, and even to rebel against Him. The handsome farmer and his wife stole from their perfect Boss, and then when He confronted them about their actions they lied to Him.

When the Boss discovered their treachery, he cursed them, fired them, kicked them out of the garden, and even posted guards to make sure they didn’t try to renter the garden.

The handsome young farmer’s name was Adam, and his wife’s name was Eve. Adam and Eve had a perfect deal going working for God, the Perfect Boss.

God had given them the responsibility and authority to care for His garden. They could eat any of the food from anywhere in the garden except they were not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Satan came along and tempted Adam and Eve. He caused them to doubt God’s word. He twisted God’s words and made them believe a lie about God. He made them think they, not God, knew what was best for them.

The sad result was they lost the intimate communion they had enjoyed with God. They lost the simple life of caring for the garden and having everything provided for them. Instead, they were cursed by God to work for their food, deliver children in pain, and condemned to die.

Breaking their covenant relationship with God was a costly decision made in a moment of temptation, that was based on a lie.

We don’t enjoy the intimate relationship that Adam and Eve had with God as they walked together in the Garden. But we are not lacking for inspiration from God:

We have His Word. Studying God’s Word provides His guidelines, His principles, and lots of examples for us to learn about Him.

We have the Holy Spirit. When Jesus went back to be with the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to take up residency in our hearts, to be our guide helping us to lead God-honoring lives.

We have the power of prayer. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. He is our mediator, who longs to hear the prayers of His children.

Leaders, be mindful of the ease in which Adam and Eve listened to a lie. They rejected God’s best and had to live with that fateful decision for the rest of their lives. It takes only a moment of weakness to cause a lifetime of heartache.

There are two ways of doing things: God’s way, and our way. The closer we align our way to God’s way the better off we will be.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. As a leader, have you struggled with times when you were tempted to do things your way, knowing God’s way was better? What was the result? How do you stay connected to God to insure your decisions align with God?

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Category: Personal Development |Obedience to God

#151: Me, Myself, and I, the Unholy Trinity of the Selfish Leader

There was a time in my early days as a leader when I thought quite highly of myself. I perceived myself as being smarter than most of my bosses, certainly smarter than my peers, and my employees, well they were downright lucky to have me as their boss!

Selfish Leader

Looking back, I believe my leadership style came from a confluence of my own insecurities and the command and control style of leadership exhibited by the post WWII leaders I worked for.

What that means is I did everything I could to hide my own insecurities behind a wall of bravado. It means that everything I said and did as a leader was designed selfishly to advance the cause of me, myself, and I.

Thankfully for me (and everyone in our organization), I became a Christian, and God started working on me right away. I soon realized the kind of leader I was, was not the kind of leader I wanted to be.

I’d like to say my transition was like a larva in its cocoon that metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly. But it wasn’t. It was more like I was this huge piece of stone that God had to hammer away at, until He got something that He could use.

Because of my history, I can spot selfish leaders from a mile away. Check this list of seven characteristics. If someone has three or four of these characteristics, they are well on their way to being a selfish leader:

1) Rejects counsel and advice from others.

The selfish leader believes he/she is the smartest person in the room, and there is little to be gained from listening to the wisdom of others. Even if someone else has a good idea the selfish leader will reject it because it isn’t theirs.

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, rejected the counsel of his father’s advisors. Instead he listened to his young friends who told him what he wanted to hear, and the result was rebellion in the kingdom and war. (1 Kings 12)

2) Makes unrealistic demands on others.

The selfish leader will make unrealistic demands on others in an effort to further their own agenda.

Solomon had taxed the people heavily to pay for his own luxurious lifestyle and all his building projects. Rehoboam, promised the people rather than lighten their load he would lay an even heavier burden on the people. (1 Kings 12)

3) Threatens drastic punishment for failing to meet demands.

The selfish leader is not afraid to beat people into submission. They will cajole, humiliate, threaten, and if needed, make an example of one to “motivate” others.

When Rehoboam announced his new “I’ll tax you more than ever” plan he followed up with a threat saying, if you thought my father was hard on you when he whipped you, wait till I get ahold of you! (1 Kings 12)

4) Refuse to help others. The selfish leader isn’t about to help others unless there is something in it for them.

Nabal was a very wealthy man. David and his men had protected Nabal’s servants and his flocks from robbers and nothing had been lost while David gave them protection. When David and his men needed some food and water they asked Nabal and he refused to help them. (1 Samuel 25)

5) Makes rash pronouncements.

The selfish leader is all about grandiose gestures, promises, and proclamations. It’s all about making him look bigger than life.

Jephthah returned victorious from battle and announced that whatever came out of his door to greet him he would kill as an offering to the Lord. Who should emerge to greet him but his virgin daughter! (Judges 11)

6) Obsessive Paranoia.

The selfish leader is often paranoid that someone will discover their incompetence. When that paranoia becomes fixated on a single individual or group they seek the destruction of their “enemy.”

Saul was just such a king. He was paranoid that David was about to take away his kingdom and he became so fixated on David that his risked the kingdom in an attempt to kill David. (1 Samuel 22)

7) Rejects God’s direction.

The selfish leader doesn’t just think he knows better than his contemporaries. He or she is also able to rationalize their decisions as being better for them than following God’s direction.

Jonah was a prophet of God. But when it came to delivering the message of repentance to the Ninevites, Jonah rejected God’s call, and ran the other direction. We all know how that worked out! (Jonah 1)

Truth be told I still struggle with being a selfish leader sometimes. But when that happens God gets out his big hammer and chisel, and starts hammering away on me. He’s trying to make me more like Jesus.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for or with a selfish leader? How did it affect you? The organization?


Category: Relationships | Interpersonal Relationships

#150: How to Identify Paradigm Shifts and Explode Your Business

Horses as the primary mode of transportation, candles used for lighting, wood used for cooking and heating, windmills for pumping water, wind-up mechanical watches, mimeograph machines, are all extinct. These were not bad products, but none the less they are gone.

Paradigm Shifts

What happened? Paradigm shifts occurred. Technology made new products possible, new products replaced old products, and in some cases, created whole new markets.

Consider the Swiss. Up through the 60s the Swiss were world renowned for their prowess at making mechanical watches. The Swiss invented the minute hand and the second hand. They were the undisputed leaders in gear and bearing technology. It was the Swiss who first developed the waterproof watch and the best self-winding watches. The Swiss were innovators. By 1968 they had a remarkable 65% of watch sales in the world. No one was even a remote second.

In 1967 the Swiss developed the first electronic quartz movement. Even though the Swiss manufacturers decided the new watch wasn’t noteworthy they displayed it at the World Watch Convention. A small Japanese company named Seiko liked the idea of an electronic watch, and the rest as we say is history. By 1980 the Swiss share of watch sales dropped to below 10% worldwide.

The electronic watch revolutionized watch production; they were more accurate, more durable, and less expensive to manufacture. A paradigm shift had occurred. All the conventional rules about making and selling watches were changed in a matter of two years.

The greatest paradigm shift of all time came when Jesus preached the gospel. The impact of that simple message has been felt throughout the world for over two thousand years. People changed, societies changed, and governments changed, all because of one man and His message.

Leveraging a Paradigm Shift

The trick leveraging a paradigm shift is to 1) forecast the paradigm shift, 2) recognize its development in the early stages, and then 3) position your company to take advantage of the shift. To illustrate this three-step principle, let’s review the history of transportation:

In the beginning man walked. Probably for hundreds of years there were no paradigm shifts. But there were problems with walking; your feet got sore. Once the problem was identified someone went about finding a solution; sandals to protect the feet. There were still problems with walking however; you get tired walking all day long carrying heavy loads. Another problem identified. Someone realized that if they could get a donkey to carry the load they could walk a lot further. Another problem solved. But you still couldn’t get very far in a day; donkeys are not speed demons. Someone tamed a horse to ride and another problem was solved. For hundreds of years man’s primary mode of transportation was horses. Industries developed around the breeding of horses, making tack, wagons, etc.

Eventually, someone realized that horses and wagons just didn’t make sense to cover the long distances across countries. A wagon was fitted with a steam engine and laid on rails, and another problem was solved with the birth of the railroad. Railroads solved many transportation problems. They were able to carry enormous loads across great distances at high rates of speed, but they were confined to those tracks! To get to Aunt Mae’s house across town you still had to saddle your horse or hitch up a buggy.

Someone decided to put a steam engine on a wagon with steerable wheels, and the automobile was born. The automobile solved lots of problems; it was personal, you could go wherever there were roads, and whenever you wanted. As reliability increased, popularity grew and the automobile evolved into the remarkable piece of modern day technology that we enjoy today. As revolutionary as the automobile was it still took a long time to get across the country, they didn’t work very well in the snow, and you certainly couldn’t get across the ocean in one!

Then of course the Wright Brothers bolted an internal combustion engine onto an airframe and the aviation era was born. Airplanes solved the problem of covering great distances at high rates of speed. They could be small enough to be personal, or big enough to carry the whole neighborhood. More problems solved.

Do you see the pattern above? There are known needs and unknown needs, paradigm shifts occur when someone meets these needs with a new product that solves the problems of the old product. There are the minor shifts like sandals and then shoes.

And there are major shifts. A major shift occurred when man moved toward the donkey and the horse to replace walking as the primary mode of transportation. Another shift occurred with the development of railroads, another with automobiles, and another with airplanes. Another major shift will occur when we can say, “Beam me up Scotty,” and be instantly transported from LA to New York.

Each of these major shifts solved some of the problems of the previous product, but they also created a new group of problems to solve. These new groups of problems led to the next major paradigm shift.

In many cases paradigm shifts occur because new product technology creates new, previously unknown, needs. But the lack of “known need” didn’t stop someone from creating a product that created “new needs”!

Getting Started

If you are a leader and you want to develop an organization capable of forecasting, recognizing, and taking advantage of paradigm shifts then the following five points will be helpful:

1. Don’t trust the experts!

Experts who develop technology often don’t even understand the import of their actions. Simon Newcomb, a noted astronomer, said in 1902, “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” In 1913 the American Road Congress reported that, “It is an idle dream to imagine that…automobiles will take the place of railways in the long distance movement of…passengers.” Thomas Edison said in 1880 that, “The phonograph…is not of any commercial value.” If you want to recognize paradigm shifts you might want to look to someone other than the “experts” for answers.

2. Forecasting

Get a group of individuals together and have them write “future” scenarios. What will this industry look like in 20 years, 50 years? These “future” scenarios will help you see major paradigm shifts. If you’re in the home building business you may see the concern for the environment as a precursor to a major shift in home building technology; new heating systems, new building materials, new super insulation materials, etc.

Get another group to write about what problems exist in the industry today, and to forecast future problems and needs. For example, if you’re in the plastics business you might consider oil supplies as a future problem. You might see pollution control legislation as a problem. You might see a need for a new type of plastic that will meet certain consumer needs, etc.

3. Flexibility

As leaders we tend to focus on problem solving. In the crush of our workloads we tend to be very comfortable with current solutions to problems. What we don’t realize is that there are some new ways of doing old things and that we must be willing to accept these new solutions, even while the old solution is still working.

4. Search and Reapply

This is a big opportunity area for most businesses. One department gets a good idea and uses it to solve a problem, but nobody else in the organization ever hears about it. We need to create systems for publicizing ideas throughout our organizations. Once this is being done we need to teach people to constantly look at the way other people do things as fertile ground for ideas that will help them do their jobs better.

5. Listen

As a leader you need to understand that the people who have the ability to spot paradigm shifts are probably working for you right now:

  • They are the young people who have not been so socialized by years of experience that they are capable of seeing things a different way.
  • They are the experienced people who just took on a new job.
  • They are the odd ducks who are always challenging the status quo, never content with the way things are, they are forever trying to change things.
  • They are the inventors who get ideas and build prototypes. They often don’t even realize how valuable their ideas are in terms of solving other problems.

Now that you know who is most likely to spot paradigm shifts, listen to them and record their ideas. You never know when what seemed like a silly idea for one project will turn out to be a brilliant solution to another project.

One Final Thought

Any organization that wants to be successful in the 21st century will need to be: 1) future oriented; capable of anticipating changes in technology and consumer needs, 2) innovative; not only in the way they apply technology but in the way they approach it, and 3) focused on quality; total quality will be the bare minimum in the next century.

To be successful, you will need all three of these components; not one or two, but all three. Getting to the point where your organization has these attributes may represent a major paradigm shift, but you might as well start right now.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What paradigm shifts have occurred in your business in the last 50 years? What might happen in the next 50 years?


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Category: Skills |Innovation Change