December 17, 2021

Books That Grew Us in 2021

Here at PHOS, we often say, “Leaders are readers.” We commit to that statement through our LeadWell Library and in the way we aspire to read books on leadership and growth all year long while challenging each other to do the same. 

2021 has been a year of pivoting and living the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) life. Still, our team didn’t let that stop us from continuing to pour into our development. Read on to learn what books shaped us most in this past year. 


Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
By Jocko Willink and Leif Babib 

It took some of the hardest life and leadership lessons learned in combat and related them to business. It challenged me and reminded me to take more responsibility over the things that happen on my team, in my marriage, and in my life in general. It’s about teamwork, humble leadership, excellent communication, and camaraderie.


How to Win Friends and Influence People
By Dale Carnegie 

The book can be hit or miss, but I specifically liked how they discussed techniques in handling people.

Leaders Eat Last: ​​Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
By Simon Sinek

Those of us who lead may not always understand the impact our leadership roles have on those we lead. To cultivate our circle of safety, we should focus on helping each other rather than “one-upping” each other to make management happy. This helps us become long-term leaders.


Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People
By Bob Goff

I LOVE BOB GOFF. Seriously everything he writes is wrapped in authenticity, humor, and humility. While this isn’t a standard professional, self-leadership book, it’s crucial for anyone around people. This book uncovers the idea of servant leadership in a humanized way, empowering us to think of others first always. This book taught me a lot about what servant leadership looks like in all facets of life. 

Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong
By Kristen Hadeed

Permission to Screw Up is one of the most relatable books. After peeling back the secondhand embarrassment some of the stories produce, it’s an impactful way to talk about failure and how it’s necessary to your personal growth and improving an organization.


Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will
By Kevin DeYoung

This is my #1 book of the year and was ultra-clarifying for me in a season when I was trying to answer an age-old question: how do I determine God’s will in XYZ scenario? This book is for anyone who has ever asked that question. I highly recommend it. 

True Riches: What Jesus Really Said About Money and Your Heart
By John Cortines and Gregory Baumer

I’m trying to read at least one book a year on finances. God-pleasing financial management doesn’t look like the model our culture is selling to us. John’s 4 principles are challenging reminders of how our hearts need to be transformed regarding finances. This book is for anyone who understands money affects your heart. 

Younique: Designing the Life that God Dreamed for You
By Will Mancini

This was a powerful book. That said, it is a challenging book to get through as far as the writing style and the number of activities. This book helped me refine my purpose and mission down into two words — Pastoring Leaders. That’s a long, hard journey, but it has been so worth it. This year, giant life decisions have been made because of what I got out of this book. This book is for those who want to start their brave journey down the road to purpose. 

Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End
By David Gibson

You’re going to die. Are you ready for that? Gibson’s book is the best commentary on Ecclesiastes I have ever read. It’s a real look at a universal reality and a call to reorient our priorities. This book is for anyone who wants to dig deeper into one of the most powerful books in the Bible. 

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World
By John Mark Comer

This is my #2 book of the year. I can’t say enough good things about this book. This simple idea is so powerful — Jesus was never in a hurry. Learning to rest, retreat, Sabbath, and practice silence has been a three-year journey for me, and this book wrapped it up nicely. This book is for everyone.

*Heads-up: the chapter about simplicity, consumerism, and fair-trade products wrecked me. I suspect this will be a theme in 2022 for me.

The Vision Code: How to Create and Execute a Compelling Vision for Your Business
By Oleg Konovalov

“Be a visionary leader,” they said. When you’re a 72/100 visionary leader, visioneering is a discipline more than a natural habit. This book helped me clarify a new vision statement we are unveiling in January. Get ready! We are going to need your help! This book is for anyone who needs help learning to build a vision people can get behind. 

The ESOP Playbook
By Brandt Brereton and Jared Hanley

If you have ever considered implementing an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in your business, this is an invaluable resource for understanding different funding methods. 

Board Member Orientation: The Concise and Complete Guide to Nonprofit Board Service
By Michael E. Batts

I’m new to being on a board of directors for a nonprofit. This book was critical to helping me balance my perspective on what a BOD does and shouldn’t touch. A must-read for new board members.


Hello, Fears: Crush Your Comfort Zone and Become Who You’re Meant to Be
By Michelle Poler

Michelle’s fear tackling tale is encouraging, hilarious, and a major wake-up call to those of us who live daily with social fears that limit our true potential. The author expertly dissects everyday fears by breaking them down into a relatively small core group of innate fears that we, as social animals, almost all face. Michelle leads by example, but what’s better is that she empowers readers to be leaders of their own unique situations and circumstances, granting wisdom, lending strength, and inspiring confidence no matter what comes your way.


Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
By James Clear

I really enjoyed the idea of habit-stacking, where you create a new desired habit by adding it to a habit you already have (e.g., brushing your teeth). It was also helpful to focus on ways to increase self-discipline. 

The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win

I loved this book because it highlights the most common dichotomies of leading people. For example, it talks about pushing people to be their best and work hard, but not to the point that you’re burning them out. Hold people accountable, but also inspire them and provide positive reinforcement. Take extreme ownership of things, but also try not to do everything for your people and allow them to take ownership of things. There are an infinite number of dichotomies, but those are some of the main ones. If you’ve ever read Extreme Ownership, this book is a follow-up of that, and it teases out Extreme Ownership more and demonstrates the various nuances.

PHOS Grows Reader Leaders

Well, there you have it — just a small sampling of the books that rocked the socks off our PHOS team in 2021. If you have any leadership or growth books you want to share, feel free to connect with us or come visit the studio. Happy Reading!  

Caroline Lentz

Caroline Lentz

As a Copywriter, Caroline uses her background in creative writing and education to craft strong, engaging stories, using the magic of the written word to fuel purpose-driven content. She believes every company has an extraordinary tale to tell, and people should be at the heart of every “why.” When not flexing her creative muscles for PHOS, Caroline can be found chasing after her three young sons (and two puppies), hanging out with her husband, watching British mystery shows, reading a great book on the beach, or being active in her church. She loves chocolate, sports, and music, and is a hard-core Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fan.