Habits of Leaders: Reading

Welcome to a six-week series of tips on habits of leaders.

A conversation with my son, Rick, this past week was confirmation of this concept I’ve been thinking about for weeks.

Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and long time Cru friend, was known for saying, “A leader is someone who knows where he [or she] is going and can take others along.”

I’m an unlikely candidate for leadership. I don’t conform to the typical profile of a leader–directive, decisive, quick, or charismatic, attracting others to my cause or me. I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. I was one of very few in my extended family or high school to attend college. I am by nature, reticent to lead, slow to process complex information, and easily swayed. I am a true introvert, and slightly bookish! Maybe more than slightly!

So…if God can use me, He can use anyone!

With that said, I want to take the next six weeks to consider some habits of leaders. These are selective, not the ones most consider first. But taking time to think and dream, exercise, being generous, and elevating others are a few habits that have served me well.

Reading is one vitally important habit of leaders. I’ve been on a kick for the last dozen years to read classic literature and history, and recently presidential biographies. I wish I had started earlier.

Currently I’m reading six books—a novel, a presidential biography, a true-life adventure story, two Christian devotionals, and one on the state of the church. I don’t recommend that many at a time. But some are because I am in community, and others are yearlong projects.

I’ve read or listened to 19 books so far this year. I could listen to same classic rock Pandora station when I run or workout, but I’ve found that I enjoy listening to engaging audiobooks. LibriVox offers 10,000 titles in the public domain. They have an app for both iPhone and Android. I can’t tell you how many illustrations or illusions I’ve come across listening to books at zero cost to me.

The yearlong presidential biography I’m working through this year is Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald. I’m in no hurry, just a few pages each day. But at least as far as I’ve read to date, I’ve been able to identify with some of what he experienced. Though he had aspirations, one of our nation’s greatest presidents was a reluctant leader. He was gangling, socially out of place, cautious, and often at a loss with little precedent to follow. He was greeted before he ever arrived in office with seven seceded states and four more ready to follow.

On his journey to Washington to take office, he said, “While some of us may differ in political opinions, still we are all united in one feeling for the Union. We all believe in the maintainance {sic} of the Union, of every star and every stripe of the glorious flag.” He had been elected President, “by a mere accident, and not through any merit of mine…a mere instrument, an accidental instrument…the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elected to the Presidency,” a man “without a name, perhaps without a reason why I should have a name.” P. 275.

Abraham Lincoln had no pedigree and had little to commend his leadership. But he chose to take responsibility. The prophet Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…” Nevertheless, he offered himself, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:5,8 NIV.

I am the Chairman of the Governing Elders in my church. I did not seek the role. But I seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit and I’ve always tried to be available to the Lord. I’ve never led at such a level with a pastoral staff of over 100 years in our church alone. But this position has stretched me in ways I could not have imagined. While it keeps me trusting the Lord, and we have some challenges, I have thoroughly enjoyed the growth process and seeing God’s leading and answered prayers.

Reading Lincoln’s biography has given me perspective and a long view of leadership. The true-life adventure story I’m reading is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, that I’ve mentioned here. We all have assigned or work-related stuff to read, but reading, is a habit that is expanding me and helping me to be a lifelong disciple, learner.

So what are you reading? Here are some ideas if you need some.

Spring Coaching Tips

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