Best Books I Read in 2014


16 stonesBooks have enriched my life, changed my life, and enabled me to see the world through the eyes of others. So as we start 2015, here are the best books I read in 2014. Great leaders are continual learners and books are the entryway to learning. Enjoy!

1) With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani – A challenge to live with God instead of over, under, from or for God. It’s the kind of book you have to read a section of, reflect on, and pray over.

2) The Way Back from Loss by Wayne Hastings. This is a 60 day devotional written by a friend of mine who truly understands the pain and despair of loss. I have given it to friends, family members, and clients – may need to buy another dozen. It could be the next Jesus Calling.

3) 16 Stones: Raising the Level of Your Leadership One Stone at a Time, by Dick Wells. This was a challenging read – two of my favorite (and most convicting) chapters were “Wait” is a Four Letter Word and The Red Zone. Bonus: it’s written by a business leader here in Franklin.

4) Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant. This book is a fascinating look at business leaders who are on two sides of a spectrum – those that generously give to colleagues and even new acquaintances in business, and those who may initially seem generous but are out to get what they can. Grant helps you decipher between the two and understand why a generous heart in business is a research proven way of enhancing your bottom line.

5) A Severe Mercy – by Shelden Vanauken – It’s his life story of marriage, his friendship with CS Lewis, and his faith walk as he watched his wife die. I will remember his story about his dog, freedom and obedience forever.

6) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – While I didn’t always agree with her, too often I found myself surprised that women were still struggling with things I experienced 20 years ago. It’s a challenging read for mean and women.

7) Wounded Tiger by T. Martin Bennett – This is the story of the man who led the air raid on Pearl Harbor and one of the Doolittle raiders who first bombed Japan and became a prisoner of war. Fascinating insight into the Japanese-American side of WWII and an inspiring story about how loving your enemies honors God.

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”   Ray Bradbury

Four Questions for Leading Yourself

How much time do you spend leading yourself?

I ask my coaching clients and MBA students that question early in ourFullSizeRender relationship. Looking at the compass here, do this exercise: If you took 100% of your time on an average week at work, what percentage would be spent:

  • Leading your boss/supervisor?
  • Leading your peers?
  • Leading your direct reports?
  • Leading yourself?

Your total numbers should add up to 100.

While the answers around the outside of the compass may vary depending on the industry and managerial level you find yourself in, the answer at the center of the compass should be 50%.

Research in emotional intelligence emphatically indicates that the ability to lead yourself well is a 2 to 1 predictor of success in the workplace – regardless of industry. How well you know yourself and to manage yourself in a variety of leadership situations and conflicts enables you to positively influence the people on the outside of the compass.

Leading yourself can include:

  • Learning and growing as a leader
  • Knowing your triggers in conflict and modifying your behaviors to deescalate the conflict
  • Understanding how you respond to change and choosing the best options that enable others to embrace change
  • Identifying when you are “stressed out” and making choices to reduce stress
  • Recognizing when to listen and when to respond

So as you start 2015, ask these questions about leading yourself.

  • How can the people around the outside of the compass tell that you have their best interests at heart? What actions and behaviors let them know you are there to serve?
  • When did integrity win? When did you make a choice to do the right thing, for the right reasons, despite the potential cost to you personally?
  • What progress did you make in living out your core values – personally and professionally? Would someone observing you from the outside be able to identify what’s most important to you?
  • How did your leadership produce fruit? Whose life was blessed because you took the time to invest in him or her?

Leading yourself is a process. You’ll make great strides and then slip backwards. Don’t beat yourself up when you struggle and make wrong choices. Just enjoy the process of becoming a leader who produces lasting fruit.