I’ve often said that “leaders are readers” because readers of good books will become leaders. Knowledge that excels in application to any field or subject of study ultimately brings one to some position of “leadership.” A leader is someone who is out front or ahead of the crowd because they possess the necessary knowledge to take the “less knowing” to a commonly held destination.
Proverbs says, the discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly. Once someone opens their mouth to speak it’s readily discerned whether they’re well-read or one who feasts on foolish things. Solomon, who was deemed the most learned man in the Bible, observed that the heart of the discerning acquires knowledge—[and] the ears of the wise seek it out. He spoke of his own practice of acquiring knowledge and understanding from which he left us a legacy of immense wisdom and knowledge.
The act of reading and storing up facts and information in itself, however, doesn’t make one wise. We’ve all heard the phrase, educated fool. I know of some who devour five to ten fiction novels a month, or who read the newspaper daily, yet, never obtain “wisdom” in the process. Others read to carry facts and figures, like avid sports fans who possess total recall of statistics on every type of athlete and game in history. But unless such knowledge serves the career-path of a sports announcer or journalist, to what end have they advanced their lives in any meaningful or eternal way that would leave a mark on others?
Reading for leaders must align more with the purpose of transformation, not information. They must read books that stir them to inform themselves through education, training and skills that equip them to lead in their God-assigned field of expertise. To get there requires selective reading from among the best writers and nothing but the best. Writers who’re like tour guides to take us to the place where we won’t need them anymore and can become our own guides to guide others to their God-inspired destinies.
The best writers serve as midwifes who assist in the birth of ideas that have been developing in our souls for a while but without clarity, that is, until a writer comes along and gives voice to what we’ve attempted to define without success. The best writers draw out what we’ve been perceiving, until it becomes our own expression through words the writer uses to make the lights go on. Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? the disciples said about Jesus. And later, when he met them in the upper room after his resurrection, it says he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Here is the greatest clue for what books leaders should read. They should be books that impact me like Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith impacted the disciples. Transformative, eye-opening books by writers that will change me from the inside-out—advancing me from glory to glory and faith to faith. Though many good books exist, read those that burn in your spirit.
The best writers, too, will give you a voice that’s not an echo—a voice of authority because their words will draw out and define the depths of your own passion. Instead of quoting facts and figures, you’ll enlighten others—by your words—in the same things you’ve hungered for.
Read your passion, a passion that God instills in you. Choose the best of the best authors and books that feed that passion. Master them by underlining and wearing out their pages. Otherwise, reading unnecessary books will waste time, running through your mind like water through a conduit. They won’t stick and they won’t transform.
My entire Christian life has been devoted to mastering a few books that have done more for me than the hundreds of “okay” books that have lined my shelves for decades. I can only recall a handful that’ve impacted me. The ones that survived my library purges I return to again and again. The others wind up in garage sales, a number of which I never finished because they added nothing transformative to my life.
We must not forget in this the One who is our greatest teacher and illuminator of the Scriptures—the Holy Spirit. A.W. Tozer says it best on this point:
“The mind should be an eye to see with rather than a bin to store facts in. The man who has been taught by the Holy Spirit will be a seer rather than a scholar. The difference is that the scholar sees and the seer sees through; and that is a mighty difference indeed.
” …There is scarcely anything on earth more beautiful than a Spirit-filled mind, …an alert and eager mind made [passionately on fire] by the presence of the indwelling Christ.”
Master the few books that transform your life and you’ll become a voice rather than echo. Master the few that transforms you inside-out, and you’ll be a leader others will follow. And since there’s no other book I’ve read more anointed and more transformative than the Bible, it’s been my life-long pursuit to master this holiest library of books above all others. It alone has been my most necessary bread.
 Proverbs 15:14
 Proverbs 18:15
 Luke 24:32
 Luke 24:45
 A.W. Tozer, Man-The Dwelling Place of God, Fig Books, Lexington, Kentucky, 2016—pg. 124