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.

My Favorite Books of 2012