I love reading (and listening to audio books). When I’m being who I want to be I get through two books a month—one leadership and one spiritual. These 5 books have had lasting impact on my life and leadership over the last semester.  

  1. Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

    Create a culture where it’s safe to conflict around ideas. It’s the CEO of Pixar giving you a backstage pass to the making of Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Bug’s Life, Inside Out and every other amazing movie you know and love from childhood and adulthood. The “Brain Trust” idea blew me away. It was built because, Ed says, hierarchy kills creativity and fear of failure stifles anything great from being attempted. “When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless.” “You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.” “Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.”

2. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

    When leadership lessons are taught and learned in life or death scenarios, everybody wins.  And the actual Navy Seals who wrote the book read it themselves. Leading up the chain of command, leading from the middle was a powerful section in the book. In amazingly deep rugged voices they drop one liners for days. “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”  “There is not such thing as a bad team, only bad leaders.” “Discipline is the pathway to freedom; discipline equals freedom.” “Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”

3. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

    Are you creating a culture of trust in your organization? Real trust? A “Circle of Safety” where you can spend all your energy fighting external threats, not battling internal fears and power struggles? Sinek tells us why we want leaders, need leaders, and why when we have good leaders we feel safe and protected, like a family. “You don’t get rid of a kid when you have less money, so why are companies laying off employees just because profit is down?” This is a genius look at the story of leadership even from the beginning of time. It almost reads like an apologetic for leadership. 

4. Preaching by Tim Keller

    In my opinion, Tim Keller invented the “Gospel Centered… everything” movement. He made the word Gospel popular and I’m thankful, even if it is over-used. (What is Gospel Centered coffee??) His book talks about preaching to the heart. And it’s powerful. It’s about putting Jesus at the center of every verse of scripture and using the word of God to “change people in their chair”. It’s a must for anyone who wants to grow as a preacher.

5. Prayer by Tim Keller

    We shouldn’t be communicating God’s Word if we’re not communicating with God.  Therefore… to me, this book is just as important as preaching, if not more. In some ways you should have to read this one to read the other. Prayer gives you a history of prayer, insight from Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon and others and gives you grace to talk to God as your Father, confident that He wants us to pray and that He hears us. Anyone wanting to learn how to pray, why to pray, and what to pray needs this book.



This book teaches you how to receive feedback well. The brilliance for me came in this simple truth: When receiving feedback, we filter it through three primary lenses.  

  1. Relationship. (Do I like/respect the person speaking to me?)  
  2. Truth (Is what they are saying true, and can I hear it based on our relationship?)  
  3. Identity (Is my identity too wrapped up in what I’m receiving feedback about? Do I NEED to be good at this thing because it’s my identity? Therefore whatever they are saying can’t be true no matter the relationship.”)  

That insight has been golden for me as I receive negative/positive feedback every day.  


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel Brown

    Some may call it boring, but to me, this was a riveting story about a group of young men who were willing to do whatever it takes to become the 1936 USA Olympic Rowing Team. It’s a door to a different world, when men were men, hard work was welcomed, grit was valuable, and life was hard yet full. I know a professor who makes his freshmen read the book as a way of showing them how easy they have it. The story is amazing; you’ll weep and cheer.  

A Book I Didn't Love:

Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

This doesn't mean you won't love it, but for me it wasn't great. Ortberg is amazing and The Life You've Always Wanted is my go-to for so many people to read, but this one didn't do it for me. It just kept repeating itself and hasn't had much of a lasting impression on me. Though I do need to take care of my soul, I wasn't helped much by Soul Keeping.  


Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell 

Hope this list spurs on your reading and learning. Recommend a book to me for next month!