Leadership is within the range of a lot more people than we realise. For someone taking their first steps into leadership I'd urge the following "first eleven" to be read - in this order...
The secret of this book is the way every characteristic of Nehemiah's leadership (and there are so many!) can be placed within a divine frame. This is the first basic lesson of leadership: we are only ever sub-contractors to God, the Leader. God is at work through a disciplined and focused and consecrated leader. No pyrotechnics like in Exodus. Nothing miraculous. Just a lot of hard work under the 'gracious hand of my God.'
#2 Ajith Fernando, Jesus Driven Ministry (Crossway, 2002)
Just what the doctor ordered! A gospels-centered reflection on leadership (and discipleship) from a Sri Lankan who stands aside from the North American adrenalin rush (but is also immersed in it from time to time) - quietly and clearly calling us back to Jesus. And typical Ajith - he does it with such a vulnerability.
#3 Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus (Crossroad, 1993)
Like #2, here is an antidote for the purely managerial/corporate approach to leadership with which we can so easily be seduced today. Based on the temptations of Jesus, this takes two hours to read and needs to be read every year by every leader.
#4 JO Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Marshall Morgan, 1978)
Sure - it is a bit dated now ... but it has been viewed as the classic all around the world for more than a generation. Arguably (and I'd argue for it pretty hard!), the most widely read book ever written by a Kiwi Christian.
#5 Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership (Broadman & Holman, 2001)
I keep being drawn back to the way this book seamlessly weaves biblical insight with 'secular' wisdom to create a pretty comprehensive book on leadership. Still my pick for a basic 'textbook' if I ever get to the stage of teaching in this area...
#6 James Kouzes & Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge (Jossey-Bass, 2002)
I will be forever indebted to this author combo. A decade ago, as I journeyed towards a job that was well beyond my skill-set and experience-base, a friend suggested the first edition to me. It strengthened my arm. It whispered in my ear that it could be done. The book is now in its third edition ... I rest my case!
#7 Peter Cammock, The Dance of Leadership (Prentice Hall, 2001)
I just find this interplay between 'skill' and 'soul' as the key to effective leadership so compelling. Leadership is not just about filling a tool box, it is about refining a character! He is a professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.
#8 David Dotlich & Peter Cairo Unnatural Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2002)
A hobby horse I have been riding for a long time is the way a 'spiritual gifts' culture so often provides little incentive to work away at weaknesses - or to hear God's call to do something that we are not good at. Here is a book that identifies ten leadership instincts that are "unnatural", 'going against initution and experience', and which can develop us further as leaders. Its gotta be good for you...
#9 Max De Pree, Leading Without Power (Jossey-Bass, 1997)
Just the title will do fine! In a world where 'power' has replaced 'truth' as the currency of concern, the art of providing influence and direction without displays of power must be where it is at.
#10 Robert Banks & Bernice Ledbetter, Reviewing Leadership (Baker, 2004)
The authors stand back, consider the glut of books on leadership over the past twenty years, and provide a book-length review of what has happened from within a refreshingly biblical framework. It just has to be compulsory reading for every established Christian leader.
#11 Manfred Kets de Vries, The Leadership Mystique (Prentice Hall, 2001)
Established Christian leaders have been around long enough to discover the 'dark side' of leadership and just how sin and evil seeps into people (starting with us!) and systems. Not since #6 in 1997 have I found a book on leadership so helpful to my own journey...
Gee?! Am I already up to eleven?! There are so many more...
Oh dear - let's pretend that we have a '12th man' and a substitute fielder as well, OK?
Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell, Shackleton's Way (Penguin, 2002)
Just make sure you read it in during a 'drinks break' ... I started it in the heat of battle and the unattainably 'heroic' in Shackleton pretty much sunk me in cold and iceberg-ridden waters. But it is just loaded with insight and ideas to which I have returned for real benefit. The fact that it is a real story helps a lot.
a substitute fielder?
Walter Wright, Relational Leadership (Paternoster, 2000)
Here is a phrase that is as far from being oxymoronic as it is possible to go. They go together - but it is not always easy to put them together from day to day. A bit like #5, I like the way he moves from the biblical material (a heavy reliance on the letter of Jude) into the accumulated wisdom - from wherever - on what it means to be relational.
Well - that's where I am at just at this moment. I'd be interested in hearing what books others have found to be helpful, if you are so inclined! That will ensure that next year's 'first eleven' will be different...