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Grow in Leadership in a Year: My Top 12 Books for Lay Catholic Leaders

By Cristofer Pereyra

“The longer I work in the leadership space, the more my friends ask me for recommendations on good leadership books. I thought it’d be a good idea to start a list.”

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The longer I work in the leadership space, the more my friends ask me for recommendations on good leadership books. I thought it’d be a good idea to start a list, so I began cataloging my favorites. Then I realized the timing was perfect to share this list with the new Tepeyac Leaders (graduates of TLI) who will complete our leadership development program in June of this year.

I later thought it might be fun to list twelve titles and a suggested year-round program to read them all, starting in July. I have chosen the twelve books I think can be the most impactful and provide the most relevant insights for lay Catholic leaders, professionals who want to have a positive impact on the world. In thinking about a suggested order to read them, I created a sequence that begins with titles that consider and analyze contemporary challenges in the Church and the culture, followed by titles which offer a path for growth and action, which is our approach at Tepeyac Leadership.

As additional encouragement, I offer to re-read them with you. I look forward to good discussions between us, face-to-face, by phone, Zoom, or email—pick your medium!

Without further ado, the following are my Top 12 Books on Leadership for lay Catholic professionals. Let’s grow together in leadership in a year. We can do this!

Caveat: The Bible and The Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with writings of the popes and saints are essential reads for all Catholic leaders. They are not in this list. Don’t forget to read them too!

JULY – From Christendom to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age, published by The University of Mary

This is not a book intended for the laity as its primary audience. It’s not a book about leadership either. It’s simply a book all Catholics must read. I have not found a better resource for making sense of the chaos we find today in and outside the Church. Just what is happening with our beloved Catholic Church worldwide? Why are the structures of Church so weakened? What’s happening with some Catholic schools and universities? Why are so many parishes and dioceses struggling to bring people to Mass? More importantly, why are Catholics not living the teachings of the Faith? This book will give you the insight you need to understand what we are doing wrong and help you rethink your approach to advancing the mission of the Church.

AUGUST – Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America by David Carlin

Alright, I know. This is not a book about leadership either. Trust me, we’ll get there. One can’t multiply without first learning addition. Like the first book, this gem can offer a foundational understanding of where we are and how we got here. Both are imperative if we are to move the needle in a better direction for the Church and the Catholic Faith. When it comes to the problems in the Church and the culture, Catholics (all of us) are very good at pointing fingers. Both traditionalists and modernists can have extreme views about this. The truth is found in the middle. This book is specific to the Church in the US. However, the Church in the US happens to be very influential around the world, so the insights this book provides can enrich the minds and souls of lay Catholic leaders anywhere in the world.

SEPTEMBER – Catholic Leadership for Civil Society: A Practical Guide on Authentic Lay Leadership by Cristofer Pereyra and Erin Monnin

Yes, yes, forgive me if I appear biased here, but I happen to believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the work Erin and I put into writing this short and easy read. I have no other explanation for how I could have contributed to a book like this. It actually picks up on the topics presented in the previous two books and proposes simple and very practical steps forward for lay Catholic leaders in bringing back a new Christendom, in bringing Christ back into every space of secular life (explained in detail in the book). This book is structured to show lay Catholic leadership is not meant to be lived out within the confines of the Catholic community exclusively. Instead, lay Catholic leadership should serve as a guiding force which illuminates every aspect of secular society with the Truth of the Gospel. Catholic Leadership explains why lay Catholic professionals have a unique responsibility and privileged opportunity to influence the world for Christ. It’s not an optional prerogative, but our duty as baptized children of God.

OCTOBER - Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence by Alexandre Havard

After looking at the big picture—and understanding how things got this bad, we move inward. With my fourth suggestion for our journey of leadership in a year, I want to help you understand that the solutions to the upside-down world we now inhabit will not come from the outside, merely through our openness to God’s grace—they will come from within ourselves. As we realize that we, the laity, have the greatest potential for impact in society today, we must make the life-long commitment to growth in virtue, developing our character, and becoming virtuous leaders. Havard’s first book on leadership examines the four cardinal virtues and their relationship to the four temperaments. In addition, the author sheds light on the virtues which are proper to leaders: humility and magnanimity.

NOVEMBER – Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity by Alexandre Havard

Because no doubt, his first book left you wanting more, Havard published this, the fifth book on our list, with a laser-sharp focus on the virtue of magnanimity, or great-heartedness. To be magnanimous is to aspire to great things, not for our own sake, of course, but in the service of God and our neighbors. Everything that is true, good, and beautiful about the world that human beings have developed was created by magnanimous people. Along with humility, this is the virtue that has, in the past, and can again, change the world for good.

DECEMBER - From Temperament to Character: On Becoming A Virtuous Leader by Alexandre Havard

Yes, we are big Havard fans! I promise this is the last of his books on our list. What can I say? The man just keeps on writing. Most of us will likely be wowed by the clarity the principles in the previous two books offered. This book is all about the practicality of growing in virtue and building a character, based on an understanding of the specific temperament God gave us. Don’t miss it.

JANUARY - Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert K. Greenleaf

Now we begin to examine other aspects of leadership. Like others to come next on my list, this book is not written for Catholics. It’s not even written by a Catholic (like Havard’s books, which are written to a secular audience). Greenleaf’s book is a classic in the leadership space. It’s a book that, without an overtly religious tone (though the insinuations of faith are present), invites the reader to consider the leader as servant. For Catholics, it’s very clear who the first model of servant leadership was, Jesus Christ. The genius of Greenleaf, who affirmed his inspiration came from the Judeo-Christian ethical tradition, is that it speaks to people of faith and non-believers as well. There’s great wisdom in this book. This is perhaps why it is one of the most-read secular books on leadership. It is Greenleaf who coined the phrase, “servant leadership.”

FEBRURARY - The Art of Principled Entrepreneurship: Creating Enduring Value by Andreas Widmer

We’ve always made the case at Tepeyac Leadership that leadership is not management. Management is what the corporate world is really talking about when it uses the word leadership. Management is about moving resources and allocating human capital efficiently and effectively. As we’ve learned from Havard, leadership is about greatness. Having said that, one of the most important fields of leadership is business. Can you imagine what a powerful combination it can be for someone to be both a good manager and a good leader? That is what I think when I think of the book my friend, Andreas Widmer, wrote, The Art of Principled Entrepreneurship. Even if you are not a businessperson, if you want to lead people or organizations, for profit or not, you are an entrepreneur. This book will help you!

MARCH - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Another classic in the leadership space. At TLI, we are not afraid of borrowing from the world what is good, while simultaneously rejecting what is not. This book is also secular, but it’s amazing for me to see how much virtue-building is codified in its insights. Most principles endorsed by this book can be applied as much in the building of an organization and leading others, as they can be applied to our consistency for growth in virtue and having a life of prayer and the sacraments. You will gain powerful insights.

APRIL - The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization by Peter F. Drucker

Like my own book (third one on our list), this book is an easy read. It is, however, full of practical wisdom. This title by Peter Drucker is one of other great books he has written on leadership. This is the first book on our list that focuses on the organization (the people) being led and the considerations we must have around them and all other stakeholders. While we must read it and apply its content for what it is meant to do for us, as professionals in the secular world, I invite you to also consider how each of its five powerful questions can be slightly altered to ask ourselves about our own personal mission (holiness), and our customers (souls to be served and brought closer to God). Enjoy it!

MAY - Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacque Philippe

When seeking wisdom, one cannot stay away for too long from the Catholic Church, and so this title, written by a prolific writer who is also a Catholic priest, will bring into our journey in leadership an essential consideration: the place of peace in our lives. This is a small book, but I can assure you it’s a treasure. Life is hard, stressful, and at times, painful. Our Lord never promised it would be otherwise. In fact, He assured us we would suffer because of Him. What Jesus did leave us was His peace. But just how does one search for and maintain peace? Fr. Jacque’s book answers this question. The answer is essential for every aspiring lay Catholic leader.

JUNE - Friends of God by St. Josemaría Escrivá

Because everything we do as Catholics, including our duty to lead with the light of Christ in a confused word, must begin and end with a clear understanding of who we are and what our purpose on Earth is, I had to finish our twelve-month leadership journey with a book by the saint of ordinary life. All of us, the baptized, are children of God. That is who we are. That is where our identity comes from. A clear understanding of the common identity we share must propel us into our common purpose: holiness. I hope you will enjoy this collection of homilies, which were written for you and me, lay Catholics, many of us professionals, who want to find Christ in the midst of ordinary life. May our lay Catholic leadership in civil society be rooted always in our fidelity to the greatest leader of all, Our Lord Jesus Christ.


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