Especially in an age where we are required to spend an increasing amount of time in front of screens and pixels, it can be restorative to pick up a book and turn its paper pages. Whether you do your reading on your iPhone or demand the smell of ink and paper, here are five of the best business books for Catholic leaders to read, or re-read.
#1: Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
More a pamphlet than a full-fledged book, the Vocation of the Business Leaderis nonetheless the most succinct and direct Catholic reflection on the meaning of business in the modern world. The reflection is neatly divided into three sections— seeing, judging, and acting— which reflect how we must first see the “signs of our time” before judging and finally acting upon our observations.
The Vocation of the Business Leader is especially useful for its realization of how modern shifts, like financialization and globalization, make it a challenge to preserve a personal approach to business. The Vocation of the Business Leader works to bring the unchanging truths of the Church into dialogue with those challenges. Print out a copy, staple it, and have it on hand for when you need a refresher on how business leaders are doing something beautiful, something that is an authentic calling, something that is pleasing to God.
Here’s a taste:
We wish to speak specifically to Christian business leaders, who have at the heart of their work the deep sense of God’s calling to be collaborators in creation. Such leaders play an important role in engendering and advancing ethical social principles in their day-to-day routines, drawing on the Catholic social tradition where appropriate. We also wish to speak to all business leaders of good will who have an influence on the behaviors, values and attitudes of the people comprising their enterprises. From CEOs to heads of teams to those with informal influence, business leaders of all kinds play a critical role in shaping economic life and creating the conditions for all people to develop integrally through business institutions. – Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Vocation of the Business Leader.
#2: Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity, by Alexandre Havard
Created for Greatness is authored by Alexandre Havard, who established the Virtuous Leadership System. In this short and very readable book, Havard dives into how humility and magnanimity are critical virtues for leaders, and how leadership is more about empowerment than power. Havard shows the contrast between utilitarianism and small-mindedness on the one hand and authentic service, magnanimity, and fulfilling our potential on the other.
Replete with real life stories and examples, Created for Greatness offer a realistic blueprint for cultivating humility and magnanimity in our own lives, which can bear fruit in more personal, and more spiritual, methods of leadership.
Here’s a taste:
Leadership means pulling rather than pushing, teaching rather than ordering about, inspiring rather than berating. Thus, leadership is less about displays of power than the empowerment of others. To practice humility is to bring out the greatness in others, to give them the capacity to realize their human potential. In this sense, leaders are always teachers and fathers/mothers. -Alexadnre Havard, Created for Greatness.
#3: Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles, by Raymond Arroyo
If anyone knew how to make a deal, it was Mother Angelica. Her story of creating the Eternal Word Television Network out of almost thin air is a powerful testament to how a successful leader can be seeking God’s will and simultaneously putting in tremendous quantities of work along the way. Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miraclesoffers encouragement to the reader through Mother Angelica’s spunk and practical wisdom. Mother Angelica’s impressive integration of faith and entrepreneurship make this an easy choice for best business books for Catholic leaders.
Here’s a taste:
“My enemies don’t know something about me,” Mother confided to me in 2001. “I don’t care. I don’t care whether you love me or you don’t. But, if I think God’s honor and glory and awesome gifts are being jeopardized for another agenda, then that to me is reason for just anger: That’s legitimate.” – Raymond Arroyo, Mother Angelica.
#4: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Surely the most well-known book on this list, every young Catholic business person should be familiar with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.One reason to read it is because of its sheer influence: Covey masterfully drives in the point that our habits shape our life. Plus, Covey’s straightforward presentation of practical habits we need to develop (“put first things first,” “think win-win,” “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” etc.) points us back to the basics, orienting us to the reality that there’s no magical blueprint for our lives. Rather, our lives are slowly molded by the little decisions and habits we develop.
Another reason to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to note where Covey falls short, and where a Catholic understanding of virtue can provide a more complete portrait of human flourishing. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People doesn’t supply all the answers, but reading it in light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides much food for thought.
Here’s a taste:
But until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.” – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
#5: River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard
A gripping account of Theodore Roosevelt’s lesser known activities, River of Doubtdescribes Roosevelt’s incredible drive and affinity for challenge, which prompted him to co-lead an expedition down a 1000-mile river in the jungles of the Amazon basin. For anyone struggling with the challenges of leadership, River of Doubt is a moving tale of what a person can endure and suffer, and how challenges might impact him. Every Catholic business person should read River of Doubt, not because it is easy, but because it is worthwhile.
Here’s a taste:
…the rain forest was not a garden of easy abundance, but precisely the opposite. Its quiet, shaded halls of leafy opulence were not a sanctuary but, rather, the greatest natural battlefield anywhere on the planet, hosting an unremitting and remorseless fight for survival that occupied every single one of its inhabitants, every minute of every day… – Candice Millard, River of Doubt.
What would you add to the list of best business books for Catholic leaders?