Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Books That Have Made an Impact On My Life

While I was in Romania last week, I was asked the question “What books have had the most impact on your life?”  I get asked this question on a regular basis.  For this article I thought I would list the top ten leadership books that, up to this point, have added the most value to my life in the area of leadership.

1.  The Bible: This one is obvious.  More than any other book, the Bible has changed me and continues to change me.  The Bible is the Word of God and no other book has the potential to change us like the Bible.  It is, by far, the greatest leadership book in the world.  Most everything I have learned about leadership, I have learned from the Bible.

2.  Spiritual Leadership (J. Oswald Chambers): Spiritual Leadership is the best book I've read on Christian leadership.  No other book, other than the Bible, has influenced my life the way this one has.  This book does not borrow principles of leadership from the world and try to force them to fit the Bible, but rather derives principles of leadership for every area of life and work from the Scriptures.

3.  Developing the Leader Within You (John C. Maxwell): I list this book, not because it is the best book I’ve read on leadership, but because it was the first book I read in the area of leadership.  This book awakened me to the subject of leadership and introduced me to John Maxwell.

4.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey) This book is simply one of the best leadership development books of all time.  Covey shares 7 habits to improve every relationship in your work and private life.  My productivity increased tremendously when I began to apply the lessons learned from this book.

5.  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (John C. Maxwell): This book is among the best books ever written on leadership.  The content here is good and it's practical.  I teach this book on a regular basis.  I believe it is the foundational book for anyone desiring to raise their leadership lid.  I keep this book and a typed list of the 21 laws taught in this book on my desk at all times.

6.  Good to Great (Jim Collins): This book is fascinating.  Also considered one of the best leadership books of all time.  Jim Collins highlighted eleven companies and how they made the leap from good to great.

7.  The Leadership Challenge (James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner): John Maxwell considers this to be the best leadership book of all time.  Kouzes and Posner show how leadership can be learned and mastered by all of us.  I could hardly put this book down once I started reading.

8.  Today Matters (John Maxwell): John teaches you how to seize the day with 12 daily practices to help you control your daily agenda, make time for people you love, and find success in your career.  A very practical book.

9.  The Bible on Leadership (Lorin Woolfe): I am actually reading this book now for the first time.  It certainly will not be the last.  This book is full of leadership wisdom.  I have marked this book up to capture many quotes, thoughts, and stories.  This is a must read book for anyone who desires to grow in leadership.

10.  The Total Money Makeover (Dave Ramsey): While not a book on leadership, this book has made a huge impact on my life.  Following Ramsey’s baby step approach to being debt free allowed my wife and I to experience the liberty of having no debt (with the exception of our house).  Becoming more disciplined in our finances challenged us to become more disciplined in other areas of our lives as well. Leaders are looked up to. Leaders should set the example in the area of money management.  It adds credibility to their leadership.  If you are heavy in debt this book is a must.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Moving Beyond Mediocrity - Average Is Not Good Enough

For me, life is too precious to be lived in mediocrity.  With our life, God has given us a golden opportunity and we should use it to reach our full God-given potential.  Every person has been endowed with a certain mixture of abilities, gifts, talents, and opportunities which makes him or her unique.  There is something that God has placed within each of us that causes us to cry out to be above average and extraordinary.

Unfortunately, many people are trapped in mediocrity.  I believe one of the main reasons is that they do not dare to be different.  You must dare to be different if you want to be above average.  As someone has said:

“Excellence can be obtained if you:
...care more than others think is wise;
...risk more than others think is safe;
...dream more than others think is practical;
...expect more than others think is possible.”

Do you dare to be different?  Your answer will make the difference between excellence and mediocrity.  Below are some questions to help you check yourself and take action:

1. Do you have a dream?
One of the main reasons people simply follow the crowd is because they don’t have a dream of their own.  They have nothing to pursue.  Having a dream is what sets you above  average.

2. Are you doing what matters to you?
Many people neither strive for or achieve excellence because what they are doing is not what they want to be doing.  They are not doing what matters to them.  What they are currently doing leaves them unmotivated.  When you do what matters to you, you are naturally motivated to achieve excellence in that area.

3. Are you working in your area of strength?
It’s hard to rise above average when what you are doing is outside of your strength zone.  You can only be successful at that which you are gifted.

4. Do you fear failure?
Failure is a part of life.  In fact, successful people always have more failure in their lives than average people do.  Only those who never try, never fail.  Anyone who is achieving anything in life is at the same time risking failure.  Everybody gets knocked down.  It’s how fast he gets up that counts.  Don’t fear failure.  Those who don’t take chances don’t make advances.

5. Are you making a difference?
I have found that when people see that what they are doing is making a difference in the lives of others, their motivation intensifies.  They are challenged to be and do the best they can because it matters to others.  There is no motivation to strive for excellence if what you are doing doesn’t matter to others.  Look for opportunities to invest in others and to help make their lives better.  You’ll find yourself striving for excellence.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

In John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, law number six is the “The Law of Solid Ground.”  The law of solid ground states that “trust is the foundation of leadership.”  Leaders must always remember that if people can’t trust you, neither will they follow you.  In other words, if trust is not the foundation of our leadership, then no matter how charismatic we are, how smart or gifted we are, our leadership will come crashing down.  As one person has said, “charisma may get you in the door, but character is what keeps you in the door.”

In his book, The Case for Character, Drayton Nabers writes, “Character counts is an understatement.  Our success in family and business depends upon our character.  The strength of our nation's government and its economy rests on good character.  In fact, character is the single most important building block for quality of life in any individual, company, team, or nation.”

How many times, in recent years, have we seen leaders and their companies come crashing down because of the lack of character on the part of the leaders?  It is the responsibility of the leader to work hard to earn the trust of people and then to work even harder to keep that trust.  Trust is like a mirror, once its broken you can never look at it the same again.

Leadership operates on the basis of trust.  How do you gain the trust of people?

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