Amazing leaders have many exceptional habits – one of them is surprisingly simple: reading. Find out how it helps them develop and improve.
Harry S. Truman said, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” I love reading books because it’s enjoyable and it plays a critical role in helping me become a better leader.
I normally consume at least two books per month, some through Kindle, and sometimes as audiobooks through Audible. I’m usually in the middle of three or four books so I can choose what I feel like at any given time, such as a religious book for Sunday, a fiction book for when I want to relax, and one or two non-fiction books for when I’m motivated to learn.
Here are five reasons all leaders are readers:
1. Reading Elevates Us Above Our Current Situation
It’s easy to get bogged down in our day-to-day lives, and reading elevates us above the daily grind. It can inspire us with stories of great accomplishments. It can give us new ideas. It allows us to step back and view the forest while day-to-day we only see a few trees.
I enjoy biographies for this reason. I’ve recently read Winners Dream, the autobiography of SAP CEO Bill McDermott, and The Innovators, the story of the computer and Internet pioneers.
2. Reading Multiplies Our Experiences
We don’t generally experience life very quickly. Building anything of value as a leader takes time, and the process is typically challenging and messy.
Think of building a family. It takes almost 20 years to raise a child, and we only get a limited number of children to practice on. Older couples will say it takes a lifetime to build a successful marriage, and again, opportunities to practice are limited. However, by reading we can learn from the experiences of virtually unlimited numbers of successful parents and married couples.
The same applies to lead in business. We only have time to lead in a handful of business during our career, but by reading we can learn from the experiences of an unlimited number of leaders.
I wrote a blog post about the power of learning from others experiences through stories.
3. Reading Allows Us To Spend Time With Smart People
You may not be able to have lunch with Michael Hyatt, Bob Burg, John C Maxwell, Tony Robbins, or Napoleon Hill (especially because he’s passed on). But you can spend as much time with them as you want by reading material written by them.
I used to get frustrated with reading. I would read a lot of books, but I didn’t feel like I was retaining much of what I read. Michael Hyatt changed my outlook. In one of his podcasts, he mentioned that he doesn’t read with the intent of retaining much. He reads to spend time with smart people.
4. Reading Can Quickly Build Our Expertise
Without reading, our expertise will be limited to our direct experiences. We don’t experience life quickly, so our direct experience is limited.
Of course, book learning is not as good as hands-on experience, but it may open the door to opportunities for hands-on experience and make us more effective when we get the opportunity.
5. Reading Gives Us An Escape
When thinking about reading for leaders, we normally think about non-fiction, such as leadership principles, self-improvement, biographies, etc. While I primarily read non-fiction, I believe it’s important to also read fiction.
Fiction reading provides an escape. It helps you mentally disengage from your circumstances, which facilitates rest and recovery. When you come back to real life, you can face your challenges with new ideas and renewed energy and focus.
If you want to be a leader, you must be a reader!