With all the hustle and bustle of church life at the moment, I’m really struggling to read as much as I’d like. As a result, I feel pretty tired and uninspired. I’m looking forward to changing that. Ever since the 2009 (I think) Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit (or GLS), my view of the importance of reading has shifted. It was Wes Stafford, President of Compassion International who recited a Harry Truman quote:
“Not every reader is a leader, but every leader is a reader.”
Those words stuck with me…because they make real sense. At our disposal is a seemingly infinite and ever growing pool of resources from dedicated learners, gifted leaders and insightful communicators that we could glean so much from if we took the time to read their thoughts. It’s amusing to think that we are often so quick to try things through our own steam and make our own misguided mistakes simply by choosing to ignore the decades of experience that lies dormant within the pages of a book crying out to be read. Don’t misunderstand me, in no way am I saying we shouldn’t take risks, test the untested or learn from our own mistakes. Gaining experience ourselves is vital to learning in my opinion, but I believe we should be making educated choices based on the experiences of others rather than wild stabs in the dark. For example, it would be foolish for a politician to become Prime Minister with no knowledge of the insights of Politicians gone-by. Similarly for pastors, teachers, salesman, plumbers and many other occupations, it would extremely difficult to start from the beginning without benefitting from the experiences of the more experienced.
I think it’s the same with leadership. At 23, I’ve only been a leader in my current capacity for a few years. And I’ve made lots of mistakes. However, I also know that I’ve made a few brilliant decisions and whilst I could be arrogant enough to call it my own intuition, I really don’t believe it is. It’s the combination of the phenomenal leaders around me that I am constantly learning from and the books that I’ve chosen to read that embed principles, thoughts and ideas into some distant recess in my brain that can be summoned at just the right time. What could be called intuition is, for me at least, simply a collection of other people’s experiences stored far away somewhere just in case it becomes necessary for the situation I’m in. Even my own thoughts and reactions are nothing more than a minor adjustment of a topic in this collection to the context that I’m in. I believe that a leader should always been learning and striving to be better. The minute you give up your learning mentality, it becomes extremely difficult to transfer it to others. At, least, that’s what I think. Personally, I would suggest reading about the topic you specialise in, but also any non-fiction books that would help you to be a better leader. I’ve found it hugely beneficial – particularly books by Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, John C Maxwell and Tim Keller (but that’s just my personal opinion!).
Then, of course, there’s the Bible. If you call yourself a Christian, then it would be foolish to miss out on the best teaching around for our lives. Better than any leadership book and more life changing than any self-help book, the Bible is God-inspired and transformational. Even if you aren’t a Christian, I strongly recommend learning from Jesus, the best teacher and leader in the history of humanity. I believe there is no way you can read his teaching and not be better for it.
So what exactly is it I’m saying today? Well, this really:
- Read to lead.
- Don’t make your own mistakes when you can learn from the mistakes of others.
- Taking risks and trying new things is great, but take educated stabs in the dark.
- Make a choice to keep learning.
- Read the Bible!