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The Top 5 Leadership Books I Read in 2015

Posted by Ryan Sanders

One of my goals for 2015 was to read one book per month. In working toward my goal, I fell in love with reading again. I read over 20 books this year. I haven't read that much since seminary. My top five books include a mix of business, marketing, and fatherhood. Basically, they all fit under leadership. Here we go...


1. Essentialism by Greg Mckeown

This book is the best book I read this year. Go read it. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less will help you consider why you do what you do. Imagine no longer feeling "busy". Imagine feeling like your daily schedule is not only productive but on purpose. This book will help you consider everything you do in a given day. It will force you to consider eliminating certain tasks.

Now, consider if you handled your career like this. What if everyone in your organization, church, business, team, did what they were good at and stopped wasting time on silly email chains, purposeless projects, unproductive meetings? Mckeown calls operating at our "highest level of contribution". This book helps you learn the disciplined pursuit of better—not less.  

Mckeown defines Essentialism as:     

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential...The way of the Essentialist rejects the idea that we can fit it all in...The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default...

2. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

I reread this book this year. The big idea of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story is that you have a story and your story is powerful. "Story" at its most basic level is "a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it".

Miller points out that anyone can live a better story. Imagine the power of understanding that you have a story and you can live a better story depending on the decisions you make. What if you taught this idea to the dads you serve and if those dads taught this to their children? What if we lived daily with this idea? I think our lives might look different or at least more intentional. I'm pretty sure that's Miller's point. 

Miller doesn't simply give his reader bullet points about how to tell a story. He takes readers through a journey through his own story. You learn while he learns.

Miller explains: 

We are all like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we're given—it's just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral...And once you know what it takes to live a better story, you don't have a choice. Not living a better story would be like deciding to die, deciding to look around until you die, and it's not natural to want to die...If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet...The point of the story is the character arc, the change...A character is what he does. 

Miller continues: "If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life." 

This book has many fascinating points for fatherhood leaders related to the importance of living better stories. Consider this when you think about what makes a good story.

All the great stories include these two things: 1) The thing a character wants must be very difficult to attain. 2) The ambition has to be sacrificial.

Miller says:

When we look back on our lives, what we will remember are the crazy things we did, the times we worked harder to make a day stand out...Good stories contain memorable scenes....It wasn’t necessary to win for the story to be great, it was only necessary to sacrifice everything...A good storyteller invites other people into the story with him, giving them a better story too.  

3. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek 

This book confirmed a lot of my thoughts on leadership while using research and science to tell stories. A bit "researchy" in parts, I found Sinek's stories interesting and the overall point of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’'t to be one that sticks.

Sinek's ideas on leadership have stuck with me since reading early in 2015. I wrote about Sinek's book when I posted Fathers Eat Last (original title, right?). Basically, leadership is sacrificial and should look a lot like fatherhood.  

4. Inbound Marketing by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan

This book is a marketing reference manual. Inbound Marketing, Revised and Updated: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online is written by the co-founders of HubSpot, so you know it's good.

I wrote about this book in How You and Your Fatherhood Program Can Get Found Online. Read my post if you haven't. But, get this book for all your online marketing help. You will find it practical and real in its tips and how-to's.

These guys distill all the information that can be found in the digital and online marketing world into tried and true tips. Learn what you need to know about web, email, blog, and social media marketing from the best. Read this book and then tell me "thank you" in the comments section.

5. Platform by Michael Hyatt

First, understand I'm a Michael Hyatt fan. I trust his opinion because I've followed his humble, experienced writing for years. Hyatt is a master of making complicated things simple. His expertise shows in Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

Hyatt distills complicated information into simple steps. His book is a how-to manual for starting web, blog, social media and various other marketing efforts with intention. His book will help you not simply do the right things -- but do the right things in the right order. His information is valuable to leaders who are seeking to not only do good work for your community, but to communicate your work well so others want to get involved.

Have you read any of these books? What books do you plan on reading in 2016?

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