Archives For leadership

Books that shaped me in 2014

December 30, 2014 — 1 Comment

creativityinc_coverSo this has become a bit of a favorite post every year for me. It’s my annual “here’s what I read” post. If you aren’t really a reader let me push you a bit to make 2015 the year that changes. Set a reasonable goal for yourself and get started. Maybe one or two of these will be interesting to you:

  1. 24/6 – Sleeth
  2. How to be Rich – Stanley
  3. Growth Hacker Marketing – Holiday
  4. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right hook – Vaynerchuk
  5. It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men – Cathy
  6. Worry Free Finances – Siebeling
  7. The Essential Wooden – Wooden
  8. Silos, Politics and Turf Wars – Lencioni
  9. Emotionally Healthy Church – Scazzerro
  10. Be Real – Bezet
  11. Unleash! – Noble
  12. Overwhelmed – Noble
  13. The Rise of the Nones – White
  14. Difference – Jiwa
  15. I like giving – Formsma
  16. Four Cups – Hodges
  17. Switch – Heath
  18. Creativity, Inc. – Catmull
  19. Moment Maker – Whittaker
  20. The Zimzum of love – Bell
  21. Cover Her – Hairston
  22. The Grace of God – Stanley
  23. The War of Art – Pressfield
  24. Die Empty – Henry
  25. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Lewis
  26. The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player – Maxwell

My favorite read this year would have to be Creativity, Inc by Catmull. It’s basically a behind the scenes look at the world of Pixar and their creative processes. I absolutely loved it. I loved the stories behind the stories – like how the movie UP was originally about a castle floating in the sky where a king lived with his two sons – each one trying to inherit the kingdom.

Another great read from this year was Andy Stanley’s The Grace of God. Honestly, if you’re looking for something to renew your faith or maybe you are exploring faith in general – you gotta read that book.

Looking over the list I see books covering marketing, leadership, finances, spiritual development, emotional health, marriage, and creativity. I’m thankful for the ways these authors shaped me this year and I believe I’m better because of them.

2015 already feels to me like a year where I want to return to some of my favorite books that birthed some of my biggest dreams. There are at least 3-4 books I can’t wait to re-read that moved me for the first time as many as 10 years ago.

How about you? What were your favorite reads from the last year? Anything you’d recommend for me?



October 22, 2013 — 2 Comments


Here’s a truth I’ve come to believe: Teachability is the single greatest indicator of a person’s leadership ability. 

And because of that reality, leaders have to make choices regarding who and how much people get of their time. This graphic is something I created to help me think through those decisions I have to make on a daily basis about who to invest my time in. Here’s how this breaks down:

No desire to lead, not teachable (lower left) – This person wants to show up and do things the same every time and doesn’t want to be stretched. They are sometimes faithful doers, but sometimes simply warm bodies. They may just be happy to be here. Either way, their primary need is one of inspiration. They need something to get excited about and someone to challenge them. However, given their lack of desire, unless they respond to that – they shouldn’t get much of our time. The best way to get this group moving is to turn them into learners by inspiring them.

Desire to lead, not teachable (upper left) – This person wants to do a lot. They want their voice heard. They have ideas and maybe even some ability. But because of their lack of “teachability” they shouldn’t get much of our time as leaders. They will often be the most vocal group and so this makes it difficult, but the fact is that their unwillingness to be coached and taught will forever limit their influence. And it should also limit the amount of time we spend with them. Their greatest need is a reality check. They need to know the expectation to grow and that influence comes through a humble, learning spirit. Our hope is to move them toward being a high level leader, but that depends on them.

No desire to lead, teachable (lower right) – These are some of my favorite people. They are hungry to learn and are constantly asking questions. They don’t come across as having a strong desire to lead (they may even tell you that), but the fact is that they are some of the best potential leaders out there. Leadership often finds them because of their learning attitude. All this person needs to reach their potential is a cheerleader. They need someone who will believe in them, cheer them on, stretch them, and give them an opportunity. They deserve as much of our time as we can possibly give them. With enough encouragement, I believe this person can move into the upper right quadrant and become a high level leader.

Desire to lead, teachable (upper right) – These people are the jet fuel of your organization. Because of their desire to lead and their willingness to learn the limit to their leadership is almost limitless. Their heart is with you, they are characterized by humility and gentleness, and their desire to lead will cause them to keep improving in every way. We should give this person every second that they want with us, but to be honest they won’t require as much. All they need is for us to cast the vision (give them a challenge), point them in a direction, and then get out of the way.


CIMG0465My one year old lawnmower refused to start this summer. For anyone that knows me, you may know that I have had more than my fair share of lawnmower problems. Since moving to NC five years ago, I have owned four different mowers. So the fact that last year I bought a brand new mower and now less than a year later I was having problems again – well I wasn’t excited about it. The good news was that the mower was still under warranty. Or so I thought. After arranging to have it serviced at the place I bought it, I was told that the issue I had wasn’t covered by the warranty. Of course not. They then wanted either $150 to fix it, or $65 just for having told me that the warranty wouldn’t cover it. I said no to both, worked it out, and eventually brought my mower home to begin the DIY/google/youtube search for a solution.

All in all I spent several weeks working on it at different times. I took it apart, replaced the spark plug, replaced the old gas with new, cleaned out the carburetor, just about everything I could find – I did it. And still, no luck. At times I could start it for a couple of seconds, but then it would die.

My general pattern was to work on it, get frustrated, give up, wait a few days, try again, and repeat.

Until finally – breakthrough. After trying the same things over and over again, I finally thought of one thing I hadn’t tried. I got a tiny piece of wire and pushed it through a tiny jet in the carburetor. At first it hung up, and suddenly it pushed through. As if there was something blocking it and suddenly it gave way. And as it turns out, after getting it all put back together – it ran like a champ. I had finally conquered it, and I did it without spending a dime.

So that’s a giant lead in to this. Here’s a few lessons I learned about leadership in this process:

Don’t quit. Despite my frustration on numerous occasions, my persistence eventually paid off. Many times the problems we are dealing with can frustrate us to the point where we quit. I can’t tell you how many times I considered just simply putting the mower out with the trash and starting over. We do this in leadership sometimes too. Rather than fixing what’s broken, sometimes we quit. Either we stop trying to fix it and just learn to live with a broken system or we scrap it completely and start over. But not every problem should be avoided. Sometimes the lessons we learn by persisting through the problem are too important to miss. Sometimes it’s a person that we give up on too early rather than helping them to grow or to become a better leader. Don’t quit too early. I know I’ve given up on situations or people that I wish I hadn’t. I wish I would have fixed the problem rather than quitting.

Sometimes it’s the little things. There were dozens of much larger parts that I inspected, tightened, cleaned, examined, tested, etc. In the end, it was a tiny little clog that made the difference. And it wasn’t a tool like a wrench, a hammer, or a ratchet that got the job done – it was a tiny little wire, my wife’s scrapbooking wire to be exact (apparently that’s a thing). How many times do we overlook the little things that keep our organization from moving forward while we try and fix things that aren’t actually broken. The temptation is to think that every problem has a proportionate solution. Big problem – big solution. It’s not necessarily the case though. Sometimes it’s a tiny fix that makes all the difference in the world. In my world that has often been a communication issue. Often a simple conversation averts what feels like a giant disaster waiting to happen. Rather than new sweeping policy for everyone in the organization (the hammer) maybe it’s a simple conversation with one person that will fix what’s broken.

But sometimes it’s the big things. There’s one part of the story that I didn’t tell you yet. You see, in my euphoria mowing the lawn with my newly fixed, running like a champ mower, I was thoroughly enjoying the smell of fresh cut grass and the site of the beautiful lines I was carving into the wilderness known as my yard, when I made a fatal error. I got a little greedy with just how close I could cut the grass around the backyard trampoline and ran right over one of the supporting legs. The mower made a loud noise, parts exploded off the side, and it instantly died. Months of frustration, five minutes of glory, and it was all over. Bent crankshaft (in other words, game over), never to start again. There are some things we cannot recover from as leaders. Some things we can never undo. Often it’s in those high moments – those times of great celebration – when it’s easy to let our guard down. All it takes is one foolish mistake in a moment like that and it’s game over. No matter how great of a leader you are, no matter what you’ve accomplished, it can all be gone in a moment. Don’t let the big things take you down. Don’t try to see how close you can get when wisdom says to stay away. Its not worth it.

In other news…. I need a lawnmower. Again.


photo by: russelljsmith

2012 Reading List

December 31, 2012 — 2 Comments

I am convinced that if a person isn’t learning and growing they either aren’t having an impact at all or their impact will be short lived. So every year I set some goals for myself in terms of reading and learning. This year my goal was to read 36 books. Well, it’s time to pay the piper. While I didn’t quite reach my goal, I didn’t do too shabby either. Here’s the list:

  1. Money, Eternity, and Possessions – Alcorn
  2. The Cloak –  Gogol  // Master and Man – Tolstoy
  3. Pujols: More than the game – Ellsworth
  4. Built to Last – Collins
  5. Big churches getting bigger – Morgan
  6. Courageous Leadership – Hybels
  7. Gracism – Anderson
  8. Developing the Leader within you – Maxwell
  9. The Advantage – Lencioni
  10. Velvet Elvis – Bell
  11. The Fred Factor – Sanborn
  12. Simply Jesus – NT Wright
  13. IT – Groeschel
  14. Platform – Hyatt
  15. The New Traditional Church – Tony Morgan
  16. Real Marriage – Driscoll
  17. The Measure of our Success – Lovejoy
  18. The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make – Finzel
  19. You are a Writer – Goins
  20. Creating Innovators – Wagner
  21. A million miles in a thousand years – Miller
  22. The myth of a Christian nation – Boyd
  23. Greater – Furtick
  24. Fresh Air – Hodges
  25. God’s Politics – Wallis
  26. Deep and Wide – Stanley
  27. Love Does – Goff
  28. It’s Personal: surviving and thriving on the journey of planting a church – Bloye
  29. The 5 Levels of Leadership – Maxwell

Somewhere during the year I made the transition to mostly digital books. While I sometimes miss the feel of a book in my hands, I don’t regret it. I now have all my books right there in my kindle app and all of my highlights and notes are synced across all my platforms through Evernote. That means no more searching and wondering where that one line of that one book was (or was it the other book?) ever again. Everything is now searchable instantly.

I also learned that this much reading was a bit too much for me. Along with doing a reading plan to read through the bible this year, I found myself sometimes reading simply to check it off a list and get on to the next one – after all there was a rather aggressive goal to reach. I need to spend more time digesting what I’m reading and trying to take one or two key concepts or thoughts away from what I read instead of the “drink from a firehose” technique.

It’s hard to say what the “best” book I read this year was, mainly because I read many of them for different reasons. Some were for sermon preparation, others for spiritual growth, others for personal development. But I think the one or two books that I will come back to again and again are “Courageous Leadership” by Hybels, “Deep and Wide” by Stanley, and probably the one that will continue to shape me the most was “The 5 Levels of Leadership” by Maxwell.

So I’m already forming a reading list for 2013. Many of the titles on that list are re-reads. I want to go back to some of the books that shaped me the most and revisit them. What about you? What should have made my list this year? What would you recommend I get to in 2013?