Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


My Favorite Books of 2012

Every January I post an article on the books that impacted me the most over the previous year.  My list from 2012 is made up of books on personal growth, leadership, kids and culture and our spiritual journey. The list is shorter this year, but below you’ll find books that inspired and instructed me as a person and a leader. I hope they inspire you to read and grow more this year.


1. Indispensible: When Leaders Really Matter – Gautam Mukunda

This Harvard Business Review book took me by surprise. It reveals how most leaders elected or appointed by people prove to be insignificant instead of indispensable because they’ve been filtered and evaluated to “fit in.” Followers believe they are “safe” bets. Once in a while, an unfiltered leader assumes the role of point person and they achieve extraordinary outcomes. The book is academic but I recommend it to all.

2. Imagine: How Creativity Works – Jonah Lehrer

This NYT bestseller covers how neuroscience, psychology and environment play a factor in creativity and how this often misunderstood quality is attainable to all of us. The book covers artistic, scientific and economic creativity and how our brains can be conditioned to connect new dots instead of repeating processes from the past. Full of illustrations and practical suggestions, the book has helped our team “stretch” in our planning times.

3. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln – Doris Kearns Goodwin

Inspired by the movie Lincoln, and several comrades who already read the book, I broke down and bought it. I am so glad I did. The book covers Lincoln’s decision to hire the best leaders to serve on his cabinet—even when they opposed him—and how he managed their differences to capitalize on their strengths. It relays how he used stories, active listening, compromise, and calling out the “higher self” in others. I loved this book.

4.  Stop Stealing Dreams – Seth Godin

I usually enjoy anything Seth Godin writes, but I never saw him as an education expert. While he doesn’t claim to be, this book reveals how our current school system was built off of antiquated conditions a century ago, and not current conditions. He argues for “out of the box” action on establishing school leadership, curriculum and pedagogy matching what students need for the world they’ll be entering. It’s a free electronic download.

5. The Advantage – Patrick Lencioni

This best selling author has combined many of his thoughts from former books and put them into a single volume that speaks to the power of building a healthy culture in your organization. Lencioni believes culture is the single greatest factor influencing team behavior. The book is not a parable, like his other books. In it, he explains the practical methods leaders can use to create inspiring environments. I recommend it highly.

6. You Lost Me – David Kinnaman

David is a friend and president of the Barna Group, that reports research about trends in current culture, specifically is it relates to faith. This book reveals that while spirituality and faith continue to be a large factor in the values of Generation Y, they are not seeking answers in “organized religion.” Approximately 7-8 of every 10 young adults leaves their church once they graduate from the high school youth group. The book explains why.

7. Creating Magic: Ten Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life at Disney – Lee Cockerell

Lee Cockerell, former executive at Disney, lays out a handful of practical ideas for engaging and inspiring the team you lead. He calls them common sense ideas, but they draw millions at Walt Disney World resorts because they’re so rare in practice. Lee shares how they affirm people, try new ideas, go the second mile, eliminate hassles, and make their people their brand. If you’re looking for ideas, this book has them. I loved it.

8. The Butterfly Effect: Everything You Do Matters – Andy Andrews

This is a short read, a “gift book” that should not simply sit on your coffee table. Andy Andrews lays out in a simple and winsome style how everything you do has a “ripple” effect on others and on the course of history. It sounds like hyperbole, but he proves it in this book with historical facts and inspiring stories. This book makes you want to engage others, to live intentionally and to pursue a mission that matters!

What books were your favorite of 2012? Leave a comment below.


  1. Joseph Lalonde on January 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I’d have to say Love Does was a very important book to me this year. It’s created a desire to live a better, more full life.

    • Tim Elmore on January 14, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Yes – I’ve heard great reviews for it. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  2. David Jones on January 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I also found “Creating Magic” to be an incredible book, especially when I saw the principles lived out. After finishing the book, I emailed Lee Cockerell with some questions, knowing there was a slim chance I’d receive a response. Within 2 hours, Mr. Cockerell called me to discuss my questions and share his wisdom. Our phone conversation lasted about 20 minutes. His actions gave even more depth to his words, and it proved why the principles of the book were so meaningful and effective. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in leadership, organizational culture, etc.

    • Tim Elmore on January 14, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Wow! Thanks for sharing that great story. It’s a powerful example of an author living out the principles behind their work.

  3. Cliff on January 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    “Fearless” by Erik Blehm: the TRUE story, good and bad, of the life of Navy Seal Adam Brown. In the top 5 books I’ve read and I read non-stop.

    • Tim Elmore on January 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Thanks for the recommendation! I always enjoy stories from the military.

  4. Tami Weaver on January 15, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Actually I have read this in 2013 already, but it is excellent. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. She discusses how to be vulnerable which I think in biblical terms is humble. She shows how it transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead.

    • Tim Elmore on January 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Thanks for adding to the list. Sounds like a great challenge to begin the year with!

  5. rickbrewer on January 19, 2013 at 10:28 am

    The Wizard & The Warrior..Bolman & Deal
    Every Good Endeavor…Keller
    What Matters Now…Hamel
    So Beautiful..Sweet
    The Advantage…Lencioni
    The Accidental Creative…Henry
    Culture Making…Crouch
    Rick Brewer

  6. Dave Black on January 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    For me, The Innovator’s DNA was the most significant book I read in 2012. It challenged me to lead innovation in education wherever possible and to invest in others by supporting innovative steps which they might take.

  7. Todd Nettleton on March 6, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Best book I read in 2012 was one of the best books I’ve EVER read: “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. Absolutely AMAZING story, and on top of that it is BEAUTIFULLY written. I wrote a blog about all the books I read last year (and there were several I recommend), which you can find here:

Leave a Comment

My Favorite Books of 2012