Mark's #42 - Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley (2003)

Andy Stanley excels at communication and leadership - that's a big reason he pastors the second largest church in America.  Next Generation Leader is a book that I read several years ago, but was feeling the need for a refresher to spur on my own leadership abilities. This book focuses on five keys for development and success for up and coming leaders:

  1. Competence - Do Less, Accomplish More.
  2. Courage - Courage Establishes Leadership
  3. Clarity - Uncertainty Demands Clarity
  4. Coaching - Coaching Enables A Leader To Go Farther, Faster
  5. Character - Character Determines the Leader's Legacy


As it has been awhile since I first read this book, I realize now how impactful this little book has been on my own leadership approach and philosophy.   This is the book that encouraged me to spend the majority of my time as a pastor focusing on study, preaching, and development of other leaders (strength areas).  Stanley encourages leaders to play to their strengths and delegate their weaknesses.

The other key impact of this book is the necessity for clarity, even in uncertain times - especially in uncertain times.   Stanley is a master of casting vision with clarity.   For example, even in this book, Stanley works hard to make the big idea and key points of each chapter as clear as possible with great illustrations, and concise section summaries.

I would recommend this book to any one who desires to lead people on any level.

Mark's #38 - Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper (2002)

For the past year or so, I have been reading through this book with the Men's leadership team at The Harbor.   Each time we meet, we read one of the thirty chapters written by the preeminent pastor of our time, John Piper.   These chapters comprise Piper's passionate plea to pastors and church leaders addressing a wide variety of pastoral issues and concerns.   The readings have led to great discussions amongst the leadership team and helpful reminders to keep us focused in the right direction as we shepherd the flock God has entrusted us with.  In chapter is typical of pastor Piper's theology; God-centered and Christ exalting. Personally, the most impactful of these chapters were;

4. Brothers, Live and Preach Justification by Faith

8. Brothers, Let us Pray

9. Brothers, Beware of Sacred Substitutes

14. Brothers, Show Your People Why God Inspired Hard Texts

16. Brothers, We Must Feel the Truth of Hell

22. Brothers, Tell Them Copper Will Do

25. Brothers, Give Them God's Passion for Missions

If you are a pastor or lay leader in the church, this should be on your 'must read' list.


Ron’s #44: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Mark's excellent review is here.

I finished the last few pages of this biography in the following environment: My Apple TV played Cars streamed from my Mac that I controlled with my iPhone. All that was missing was an afternoon trip to an Apple Store somewhere. This illustrates not my dependence on technology (a topic that was addressed several other times in my reviews), but on the influence Steve Jobs has in my life. In many ways, Apple’s history is my history. Since I’m only a little older than Apple, I can connect aspects of my life with its.

I bought my first Mac in 1998 and lived in an Apple-exclusive home every since. The history of Apple and the computer industry has been a favorite topic of study over the years, and I’ve read and watched many books and movies. I have been an Apple enthusiast/evangelist for over a decade. I, like many, fell into Steve’s charismatic spell. Because of this, reading the new biography about Steve Jobs was not an option; it was an edict from within. The author, Walter Isaacson, chronicled the lives of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and now, Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs was a many of contradictions.

He was a billionaire, and he was a Zen Buddhist. He created beautiful products, but he lived as a minimalist. He was a charismatic man, but he was a complete jerk everyone around him. He talked about passion in life, but he largely ignored his family. He believed in design and beauty, but he ignored a Creator or Architect. He believed in eschewing the trappings of the world, but he created the prettiest ones.

Isaacson gives a multi-faceted picture of the man who popularized geek, both the good and the ugly. And there is lots of ugly. The book is fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable, even if you were not interested in computer history. Steve Jobs is as tormented of a man as any character is a Dostoevsky novel. He wants to build great things, but he gets in his own way. He died with few close friends, but changed the technology world for the good. On one side he inspired engineers and designers under his leadership to create products that couldn’t be done, but he did this with berating, insulting, and, at times, crying. Most leaders use encouraging phrases like “Good job!” and “Impressive!” to help build up employees. Steve Jobs’s favorite line when he is shown a new design or feature is, “This is shit!” To Steve, this isn’t an insult; rather, it is a motivational tool.

What makes this book rich and deep is not just the computer history narrative, but it is also the subplots that run through the story: adoption, Steve’s estranged daughter that he denied for years, his romantic life, Bob Dylan, and Steve’s cancer. These secondary stories make Jobs more human and relatable to use non-billionaire geniuses.

While I learned much more about Apple, the one aspect that I was more surprised to discover is how much Steve Jobs really did at Apple, even in the final days. He micromanaged design, usability, packaging, commercials, color of walls, construction of new buildings and campuses, tile in Apple stores, the “floating” staircase in the stores, and even the dinner menu at events. Before I read the book, I thought that Apple would continue just fine without him. Now, after reading how he made all the decisions, I’m not so sure.

There’s so much more I want to say in praise of this book and for Steve Jobs and Apple, but I’ll save those for conversations with my geeky friends. I wish I could have it with Steve himself. Steve Jobs was one man I wanted to have dinner with someday. (Sidenote: I did have coffee with Apple’s other co-founder, Steve Wozniak. It was a great conversation with a slightly odd fellow. Read about it here). I’d love to talk about how his quest for design, order, and beauty springs from something within us, something built by an ultimate Designer. There was an interesting spiritual comment from Jobs as Yo-Yo Ma was playing his cello for an event. “You playing is the best argument I’ve ever heard for the existence of God, because I don’t really believe a human alone can do this.” After this, Jobs made Yo-Yo Ma commit to playing the cello at his funeral. Fittingly, I am listening to Ma’s Bach Cello Suites as I type this.

I know what Steve Jobs would say about this review for his biography if he were to read it:

“This is shit.”

JRF's #26 - Called to Lead by John MacArthur

This book, formerly published under the somewhat pompous title - "The Book on Leadership", examines the life of Paul and draws 26 leadership lessons from his example.

I don't know if you are ever tempted to skip the Introduction to a book and jump right in on Chapter One, but if you read this book make sure not to neglect the Introduction.  In it, MacArthur defines leadership Biblically, which is quite another thing entirely from Worldly leadership.   That isn't to say that those who are faithful leaders in the Biblical sense will not or can not be leaders in the World, however the means, motivations, and power behind that leadership will be drastically different from those who do no follow Christ.

I also appreciated how MacArthur points out in the introduction that all Christians are called to be leaders in some sphere or another.  At a basic level all Christians are called to be leaders because all Christians are called by Jesus to be "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:20).  To be a Christian is to be a teacher.  To be a teacher is to be a leader.  This book is not just for pastors, or men, or CEO's...it is for all who seek to be faithful to lead in whatever venue and relationships God has given you.

The first third of the book (and most enjoyable) draws leadership principles from the harrowing account of Paul's journey to Rome as a prisoner and the subsequent shipwreck recorded in the last chapters of Acts.  Seeing as how he was in chains, Paul was the least likely person to lead anyone, let alone an entire ship's crew, her captain, and the Roman Centurion who was charged with keeping Paul in chains.

The second third looks at Paul's leadership of the Corinthian church, as recorded in II Corinthians.  Here the church he had poured his life out for was falling away from him, necessitating both a firm, direct, yet loving rebuke from the apostle as well as a harsh and fierce offensive against the false teachers that were leading the church astray.

The last third of the book examines Paul's final letter, II Timothy, and discusses how a leader should aim to remain qualified to lead and finish his race with integrity.

This book was definitely challenging to me and I ask for your prayers as I seek by God's grace to live out these principles in any and all spheres of influence God places me in.

the 26 Leadership Principles:

  1. A leader is trustworthy
  2. A leader takes the initiative
  3. A leader uses good judgement
  4. A leader speaks with authority
  5. A leader strengthens others
  6. A leader is optimistic and enthusiastic
  7. A leader never compromises the absolutes
  8. A leader focuses on objectives, not obstacles
  9. A leader empowers by example
  10. A leader cultivates loyalty
  11. A leader has empathy for others
  12. A leader keeps a clear conscience
  13. A leader is definite and decisive
  14. A leader knows when to change his mind
  15. A leader does not abuse his authority
  16. A leader doesn't abdicate his role in the face of opposition
  17. A leader is sure of his calling
  18. A leader knows his own limitations
  19. A leader is resilient
  20. A leader is passionate
  21. A leader is courageous
  22. A leader is discerning
  23. A leader is disciplined
  24. A leader is energetic
  25. A leader knows how to delegate
  26. A leader is Christlike


Ron’s #15: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

When I told people that I was currently reading a book on the start of Zappos.com, the response was always the same: “Why?” I’m not exactly sure what interested me in this book, but I found it in the thrift store, and I was eager to read it. Aside from theology, my favorite topic to read is the history and evolution of the computer industry. Reading a book on how an online shoe store became a powerhouse retailer seemed to be perfect.

This book is part autobiography of Tony Hsieh and part how-to-be-a-leader book (a genre that I usually try to avoid). I enjoyed reading the start of young Tony with his entrepreneurial endeavors and accidental encounters that led him to Nick Swinmurn, the owner of a business called shoesite.com, which then transformed into what we now know as Zappos.com. Tony’s dedication to Zappos (even when business logic told him it is a losing proposition) was inspiring. It made me want to buy shoes at Zappos.

Before you readers get too inspired and leave this review to buy the new Nike Frees, I want to give what annoyed me most about this book: Tony Hsieh himself. He is an arrogant, condescending, and strange man. He is smarter and richer than you, and he makes sure you know this. He loves to refer to his friends as his “tribe” (so annoying), and tells of the epiphany he has in a rave. (Tony makes it clear that he liked raves before they were popular). Somehow, that trippy experience inspired him to provide excellent customer service.

Hsieh pontificates how amazing the Zappos culture is, and, frankly, I don’t care. While I appreciate good customer service, let’s keep in mind that they are selling shoes, not running the United Nations.

Mark's #9 - Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey (224 pages)

As Christians, there is at least three ways to approach our ambitions. First, we can disconnect them from the gospel and what God has called His redeemed followers to be about.  In this way, our ambitions mirror the world's ambitions - and often end in the same tragic places as the world's selfish ambitions end.  Second, recognizing that ambition is so often tied to ego and selfish gains, we can try to suppress any ambition - since 'ambition' seems to lead to some bad things. Third, we can turn over our ambitions to God and have him rescue them for His glory and our good.  Obviously, Dave Harvey argues for this option throughout this book. In the first part of this book, Harvey shoes the pitfalls of the first two options.  He shows how and why our ambition ultimately needs to be rescued.

This book is a good, gospel-centered, biblically grounded book by a a guy who spent decades pastoring one of the Sovereign Grace church plants.  That being the case, and C.J. Mahenney writing the foreword tells those familiar with both what the focus of much of the book will be.

While this book wasn't as revolutionary as I'd hoped for when I bought it, as I continued to read past the half way point, I found myself enjoying the book and it's message more and more.  I love how the author tied our ambitions into God's glory, the role of the local church, God's purposes in our personal failures, the need for risk in ambitions, and the importance of our ambitions looking toward the next generation.

Here's a few quotes that caught my attention:

Humility, rightly understood, shouldn't be a fabric softener on our aspirations. When we become to humble to act, we've ceased being biblically humble.  True humility doesn't kill our dreams; it provides a guardrail for them, ensuring that they remain on God's road and move in the direction of His glory.

Jonathan Edwards called it 'a holy ardency and vigor in the actings of grace.'

We'll never be ambitious for what we don't value.

If we have not what we desire, we have more than we deserve