What Are You Reading?

Serving Those You Lead

by Col James R. Downey, USAFR (Ret.)

When I was on the faculty of the Army War College one of my favorite questions to ask of visiting senior leaders, especially general officers, was "What are you reading right now?"

That open-ended inquiry was usually quite telling as to how engaged those leaders were in their own continuing growth and professional development. Those who said they were too busy to read had let the tyranny of the urgent capture them.

The ones who were engaged impressed me with the breadth and depth of what they were reading. Some even suggested that it was imperative that senior leaders make time to read.

One area of study and practice that has always been important to me is the topic of leadership. I have an entire bookshelf devoted to the subject. Many of the books are dog-eared, highlighted, and well worn from frequent review. All have influenced my understanding and practice of the art and science of leadership. In more recent years I have become increasingly interested in the topic of Christian servant leadership.

I believe there are at least three reasons why few servant leaders exist. First, most leaders do not spend sufficient time studying leadership -- and many still subscribe to the concept of being born as a leader (or not). Second, servant leadership is hard work and involves significant time and investment in the development of those you lead.

Finally, to be truly successful as a servant leader requires deep humility and the intentional suppression of ego and pride. This is particularly difficult for senior leaders who are afforded significant privileges, deference, and accolades--especially in our results-driven culture.

I believe it would be well worth your time to grab at least a few of the following recommended books and study them carefully. You will certainly see things in them that you already know, but I suspect you will find a new perspective, informed by Scripture, and modeled in Jesus' life that will allow you to grow as a Christian leader.

In doing this, I trust you will be even more successful in the terms that others commonly think of as those of a leader. The difference will be leadership for God's glory, service to the Lord, and service to those you lead.

Leadership Library for Christians

  • Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, Thomas Nelson, 2005.
  • Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree, Doubleday, 2004.
  • The Making of a Christian Leader by Ted W. Engstrom, Zondervan, 1976.
  • Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley, Multnomah Book, 2003.
  • Be a Leader for God's Sake by Bruce Winston, Regent University, 2002.
  • Leading at a Higher Level by Ken Blanchard, Prentice Hall, 2007.
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell, Thomas Nelson, 2007.