5 Best Books I Read in 2013

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

Books have enriched my life, changed my life, and enabled me to see the world through the eyes of others.  So as we start 2014, here are the best books I’ve read in 2013.  Buy one, read it, then give it away.

I’ve Got Your Back:  Biblical Principles for Leading and Following Well by James C. Galvin.  This jewel of a book on leadership should be a must read for everyone.  Galvin creates a story of 4 young professionals who all work for bad bosses.  As he weaves the story, the 4 search out a Christian coach who helps them understand the concepts of how to follow well, how to lead a bad boss, and how to lead in ways that honor God. His insights into God’s original design for leadership as a dance between leadership and followership are powerful and life changing.

To Sell is Human:  The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink.  I have to admit that another book on selling was low on my radar.  But once I picked up this book and started reading, it was hard to put down.  His premise is everyone sells – whether we are in the sales profession or simply trying to “persuade, influence or convince others in ways that don’t involve making a purchase”.  Pink’s book includes practical ideas to improve our ability to “sell”, interweaving concepts of emotional intelligence, power, trust and integrity.

George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade.   I have always loved reading about American Revolution history and this book was a fascinating page turner.  I expected a historical fiction book, instead I got historical fact told as a story.  As you read about six unknown names of Revolution heroes, you’ll learn about leadership, community, commitment, and how pride can change the course of history.

Deep & Wide:  Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend by Andy Stanley.

The participants in our Pastors Leadership Academy will be reading this book.  Stanley gives us a painful glimpse into the politics of the church world, then provides a framework for keeping your focus on the mission and vision of Christ’s call to make disciples.  His insights on vision, change, and leadership are invaluable for anyone leading in a faith based ministry.

The Tortoise and the Hare , an Aesop Fable.  This one’s on my annual reading list.  It’s the best book I know to remind us of the importance of focus in our lives and our careers.  The Tortoise, who should have lost to the much faster hare, wins the race because he didn’t take his eyes off the goal line.

Blissful Reading!

The Seduction of Power

The John Edwards trial has produced some interesting testimony, none more so than Andrew Young, the ex-aide who said the lure of power caused him to claim he was the father of Edward’s baby with his mistress.    “Being friends with the most powerful person on earth – there are benefits to that”.    Pride and power are seductive.  They are beasts you think you can ride, but they suddenly turn  devour you.   Young made a choice to lie, to assist in a cover up – all in the hopes of gaining influence and power from a man who might be President.

If he had stopped in the moment and asked the question – what are the consequences of this choice? – he might not have agreed to the cover up.  A well played game of “what if” can keep you from succumbing to the lure of lust, greed, or power.  Just imagine what would happen if you got caught.  What would you have to say to your family?  What would the headline in tomorrow’s paper be?  Had Andrew Young played ‘what if’ when he was asked to play a part in the cover up , he might have imagined the headline “Edwards Ex-Aide Says Power was Motivation.”  Write the headline that might appear if your choice to purse power got the better of you.  What would happen to your family, your business, and your friendships?  Would you be in prison?  Financially ruined?   A well-thought through session of “what if” can make real the potential consequences of falling prey to a lack of integrity.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”   Even more thought provoking, the Bible says: “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)  That came true for both John Edwards and Andrew Young.

Power, character, and integrity are a rare combination.  Which ones can you claim?

Integrity Lessons in Slavery*

God builds our character and teaches us the importance of integrity, before He puts us in powerful roles of leadership.    A young man named Joseph faced several integrity forks in his life – some he failed, some he passed:

  • Joseph’s ego gets the best of him when he brags about his coat of many colors to his brothers.
  • Sold by his brothers into slavery, he chooses to serve Potiphar so well that he gets a promotion.
  • In a strong display of integrity, Joseph refuses to lay with Potiphar’s wife.  His faith is more important than pleasure.
  • He ends up in jail, falsely accused of rape.  He could have sulked and whined, but he serves well and is put in charge of the jail.
  • He interprets a dream and asks to be remembered and freed, but God decides to leave him in jail for a couple more years.

Obviously Joseph has learned humility and integrity since his youthful days of taunting his brothers; so why another two years in jail and slavery? Because God knows what Joseph doesn’t: that he is about to become Pharaoh’s right hand man.

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:41–43 ESV).

Can you imagine having that kind of power? It’s been said that God doesn’t always give us what we want because He knows we can’t handle it. In this case, Joseph had a little more character and integrity to develop before he could hold that kind of power – and before he could forgive the brothers who sold him into slavery.

Joseph is a beautiful example of how the interplay of power, integrity, and faith can enable leaders to have integrity of heart.   God shaped and molded him in order to build character and integrity – and to bring glory to God.

Power, Politics, and Character

 

Last week, about 6 days before the election, I was in our kitchen setting the table and listening to the evening news.  A commercial came on the air for Lincoln Davis, a Congressman running for re-election in our TV viewing area( although he doesn’t represent our area).  I was stopped in my tracks by the nasty, mean tone of the commercial which accused his opponent of some terrible things from 12 years ago.  Quite frankly, it took my breath away.  My first thought was that his opponent would have little time to respond.  My second thought was that I wouldn’t vote for a man who would stoop to such tactics – it lacked integrity.

Lincoln Davis lost the election by a large margin.  I believe his commercial was a demonstration of his character and cost him the election. He misused his power and played politics.  After his defeat, he was interviewed by the media and his response was telling.  He didn’t graciously accept defeat or respond with humility.  Instead he berated the voters for not knowing what they were losing as a result of the election. ”A man never shows his own character so plainly as by the way he describes another. – Jean Paul Richter 

In this election, a lack of integrity and character made a difference.  The challenge now is for the new Congressman to exhibit both.