Recently I talked with a senior partner of TAG Consulting, Kurt Andre. Among his many talents, Kurt is a certified Executive Leadership Coach. So I asked him which books on leadership he finds the most helpful. Here are his top 5:
1. Leadership Without Easy Answers, by Ronald A. Heifetz
Seminary equipped me to do many things, but not to tackle the complex challenges in leading the church. Heifetz distinguishes between problems that can be solved through expertise (technical problems) and problems that require innovative approaches, including preserving a church's unique identity or code and the consideration of the church's values (adaptive problems). For the church, an adaptive problem could include engaging a community whose demographic no longer reflects the church, buildings whose structure no longer meet the needs of today's ministry, or navigating the tension between discipleship and outreach. Heifetz identifies four major strategies of leadership: (1) approach problems as adaptive challenges, and diagnose the situation in light of the values involved; (2) regulate the "heat in the kitchen" caused by confronting issues that increase people's anxiety, by pacing the congregation through change; (3) focus on what is important versus what others say is important to them, and (4) shift the ownership for problems from the leadership (the pastor or elders/deacons or council) to all those affected by the necessary change.
2. Leadership on the Line, by Marty Linsky and Ronald A. Heifetz
Linsky joins Heifetz and gives practical application, case studies and concrete skills necessary for any leader. Through experimentation and constant adjustment leaders can successfully navigate change by using "adaptive leadership skills": "Getting on the balcony" (meaning gaining perspective on the situation), engaging all the stakeholders, orchestrating conflict, giving back the work, holding steady, managing one's own hungers, and staying anchored. An adaptive leader can answer the question of why anyone would choose to lead, and lead from the heart. This is a must-read for any church leader hoping to engage his or her congregation on the journey of transformation.
3. Leading Change, by John Kotter
Every church wishing to successfully navigate change must embrace the reality that it's a journey–not the result of a conference, a sermon series or a staff hire. Rather, churches who successfully navigate change to become an agent of transformation must go through key phases: establishing urgency, engaging the congregation, creating and communicating a vision, empowering others, planning for and achieving short-term wins, keeping the momentum going forward and institutionalizing new approaches.
4. The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge
One of my life goals is to become a professional amateur–someone who is really good at learning. With today's accelerated rate of change, those organizations (business or church) who can learn how to learn, will remain relevant. Senge draws the blueprints for an organization where people expand their capacity to create results, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.
5. Leadership and the New Science, by Meg Wheatley
So what do Newtonian physics and quantum physics and chaos theory have to do with how we understand organizations, and specifically the church? Wheatley takes us on a mind-bending journey, putting into easily understood terms how we understand organizations and how Newton's mechanistic model of the universe fails to explain the world we live in. Wheatley claims that the old model of organizations does not accurately or fully explain what goes on when people come together in organizations.
This piece first appeared on BuildingForMinistry.com. Building For Ministry is a new online resource combining the wisdom of Cornerstone Knowledge Network and Christianity Today International. Sign up for your free enewsletter today.
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