One of the most important relationships we can have is that of being mentored.  Over my leadership career I have never formally been a “mentoree,” but in reality, numerous influential actors have mentored me down through the decades.

My father mentored me in integrity.  I will always remember him telling why he couldn’t share with me the secret navy codes he used in WWII to direct allied convoys across the North Atlantic from St. Johns.  It was because “I took an oath.”  The dean of major gift fundraisers in the US mentored me in the importance of maintaining long-term relationships with an anecdote about how a first time $100 gift to the University of Southern California turned into a $100M legacy gift years later.  Dr. Robert Clinton mentored me on the importance of developing the inner life of the leader by responding to divine “integrity and obedience” checks in his classic work, “The Making of a Leader.”

Some of my most powerful mentors have been long dead: Martin Luther King Jr. with his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and Winston Churchill with his four-word graduation speech to a class of British youngsters, “Never, never, never give up!”  These leaders mentored me through books I have read, especially the genre of biography.

All leaders should be readers.  The great divine, John Wesley, is quoted as saying, “Read and pray daily … else you will be a trifler all your days.”  So what are you reading?  Let me take a few moments and share with you six books and authors that have profoundly influenced my leadership journey and inner life.

  1. Spiritual Leadership, by J. Oswald Sanders – This classic leadership book was written to encourage men and women of God to place all their talents and powers at the disposal of God so He can create leaders to be used for His glory.
  2. The Life God Blesses – Weathering the Storms of Life That Threaten the Soul, by Gordon MacDonald.  Over the years I have occasionally culled my personal library, but this volume remains.  An inspiring read on the importance of strengthening the soul of the leader.
  3. Fierce Conversations – Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, by Susan Scott.  Her insights that we need to “master the courage to interrogate reality,” and that “our work, our relationships and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time,” have permanently altered my approach to leadership dynamics.
  4. Making Sense of God – an Invitation to the Skeptical, by Timothy Keller.  This is perhaps the best exposition I have read on why Christian faith “makes sense” and lines up with reality.
  5. Leading Change, by John P. Kotter.  I am forever grateful for this volume.  The first two stages in his eight stage change process are forever etched into my leadership brain:  first – establish a sense of urgency, and second – establish a guiding coalition.
  6. Necessary Endings, by Dr. Henry Cloud.  This book gave me powerful insights into when the time has come to pull the trigger on employee and personal relationships, and on business strategies and opportunities.

What is the volume of leadership or life that has profoundly shaped your leadership journey?  Let’s keep reading…there’s no shortage of mentors that can inspire and direct us down fruitful paths of leadership throughout 2019.

Blessings for the leadership journey,

Gordon Dirks, President (Interim)
Corpath Business Forums –