The Best Leadership Book

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Bible, Joshua 1:8

I am frequently asked, "What is the best leadership book?" My answer is always the Bible. I have read thousands of leadership books and articles, and can attest that every leadership principle espoused by the authors can be found in story or proverb from the Bible. This is why I tell leaders to go directly to the source to find the most concise and comprehensive information to enhance their leadership.

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time. It is also the most widely quoted book. Biblical references and expressions are used by writers, politicians, public speakers, athletes, newscasters, bloggers, editorialists, historians and, of course, pastors. The most influential leaders of the last few centuries relied extensively on the Bible, including Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and almost all U.S. Presidents, Generals, college Presidents and CEOs. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, as an educated person and leader, you should read the Bible and the leadership stories that it reveals.

Reading the Bible can help strengthen character virtues. To strengthen integrity, you can read the story of Daniel and the benefits of a life lived with integrity. David and Esther evidence courage. Joseph shows determination and forgiveness. Abraham and Noah show obedience and persistent faith. Job demonstrates perseverance through adversity. The Bible also provides lists of favorable character traits to emulate like generosity, peacemaking, self-control, moderation, forbearance, kindness, goodness and joy.

We also see warnings about behaviors that derail leaders. Although he was "a man after God's own heart," David ignored his family and fell prey to lust and adultery. Solomon's wisdom didn't protect him when he succumbed to wealth and women. Numerous characters allowed pride to destroy their judgment and their careers. Judas betrayed his leader, Jesus, for money and politics, while Peter betrayed Jesus under fear of arrest.

As a leader, you will be faced with many times when things "don't make sense." Business efforts will fail, despite the best planning and execution. People who work for you will die, sometimes in tragic ways. Close friends will betray you. Someone else will get promoted over you. Your work life may be thriving, while your personal life is in ruin. The Bible helps to put these situations into perspective, gives you words to comfort the grieving or lost, and provides hope in the midst of adversity.

Specifically, what will you say or do when you face a death—of an employee, an employee's spouse, parent or child, or a customer? I guarantee that you will be in this situation at some point in your leadership. Beyond "I'm sorry," do you have any words to help those who grieve? I have a condolence letter based on Biblical principals that I have sent to those in grief, and have received many comments that my words were helpful and comforting in a difficult time.

The Bible describes good and bad leaders. The story of Nehemiah details the entire process a leader goes through in starting and completing a major project, including dealing with opposition and what to do when the people you leave in charge lead inappropriately. Every leader can learn from Nehemiah the critical elements of project leadership. The story of Jesus shows how a leader who is born in the lowest circumstances can impact the world for over 2,000 years. Weak leaders include Saul, who attempted to kill his successor, David, to maintain the throne. Young King Rehoboam ignored the advice of his elders and instead listened to the youth he had grown up with, resulting in a rebellion against his rule. Pontius Pilate gave in to mob rule and ordered Jesus to be crucified, then "washed his hands" of the decision. Each story provides leaders with invaluable insight into the consequences of human behavior, especially their own.

I attempt to read the Bible daily and it is amazing to me how often my reading for the day helps me with a situation that is happening in my life or that arises during that day. If you have never read the Bible, it might appear a daunting task. Although most people have heard of the King James Version and may start with that, I suggest you get a contemporary version, such as the New International Version or the Message, which is much easier to read and understand. Some Bibles are arranged for daily reading of about 15-20 minutes, with a passage from the Old Testament, a passage from the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb. These provide interesting variety and allow you to read through the entire Bible in a year. I would challenge you to give this a try and find out if your reading supports you in your daily interactions.

Surpassing leaders pursue wisdom, and the best source is the wisest book ever written—the Bible.
Action Points
Ÿ Read the Bible on a regular basis, preferably a few times a week or even daily.
Ÿ Study the characters and look for parallels to people you may meet in your work and

personal life.
Ÿ Get strength from the stories of perseverance and courage.
Ÿ Enhance your character by studying the examples of good and bad decisions.

Payoff
Ÿ Wisdom, strength, courage, perspective, peace

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