How important is Reading? Leaders are made through hard work, determination, and a healthy dose of reading. Yes, you heard me right, reading! It’s not just a way to pass the time or impress people with your literary prowess; it’s a vital ingredient for effective leadership.
As a leader, you are responsible for guiding your team toward success. You make critical decisions, inspire and motivate people, and set the vision for your organization. To excel in your role, you need to develop your skills and knowledge constantly. One way to do that is through reading.
Reading is often regarded as a solitary and passive activity, but in reality, it is a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. Reading not only expands your knowledge but also improves your critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills. In this post, we will explore the link between reading and effective leadership and why reading leaders lead smarter.
The Benefits of Reading for Leaders
Reading is a beneficial habit for everyone, but it is especially valuable for leaders. In a previous blog post, I highlighted the significance of reading history books and biographies to discover inspiring role models. The advantages listed here, however, are broader in scope.
Improves Critical Thinking
Leaders need to be critical thinkers who can analyze information, identify problems, and make informed decisions. Reading helps develop critical thinking skills by exposing readers to different perspectives and arguments. When reading, you encounter various ideas and arguments, some of which may contradict your beliefs or challenge your assumptions. This exposure to new ideas forces you to evaluate and assess them critically, improving your ability to think logically and make reasoned judgments.
Creativity is essential for leaders who need to find innovative solutions to problems, inspire others, and develop new products or services. Reading fiction, in particular, has been shown to boost creativity. When you read a novel or a short story, you engage your imagination, visualize the story, and create mental images of the characters and settings. This imaginative exercise stimulates the brain and enhances creative thinking.
Fosters Lifelong Learning
Leaders are continuous learners who stay up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies, and ideas in their field. Reading provides a convenient and effective way to learn new things. By reading books, articles, and research papers, you will expand your knowledge and skills, stay informed about the latest developments, and acquire new perspectives.
Improves Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for leaders, enabling them to understand and manage their own emotions and those of others. Reading fiction and non-fiction books that deal with human emotions and relationships can help leaders develop empathy and emotional intelligence. By reading about characters who experience a range of emotions, you can learn to recognize and understand emotions better, making you more empathetic and better equipped to manage relationships.
Enhances Communication Skills
Leaders must be effective communicators who can articulate their ideas clearly and persuade others. Reading helps improve communication skills by exposing readers to different writing styles, tones, and language patterns. Reading leaders learn how to structure their thoughts and ideas coherently and convey them in a compelling way. Expand your vocabulary while reading and enhances your language skills, making you a more articulate and persuasive communicator.
Reading Habits of Successful Leaders
How important is reading? Well, many successful leaders attribute their success to their reading habits. These successful leaders are not only reading to expand their knowledge but also using reading to develop their leadership skills. By reading books on leadership, strategy, and management, they are learning new techniques and perspectives that they can apply to their organizations.
Here are some examples of those reading leaders:
- Bill Gates: The co-founder of Microsoft is a voracious reader who consumes around 50 books per year. He reads books on a range of topics, from science and technology to history and biographies. Actually, his advice to his younger self is to read more books (source). I have created a Bill Gates reading list.
- Warren Buffet: The legendary investor is known for his love of reading and spends most of his day reading newspapers, reports, and books. He credits his reading habit as a key factor in his success.
- Oprah Winfrey: The media mogul is an avid reader who hosts a popular book club and often features books on her TV show. She has said that reading has been a constant source of inspiration and learning for her.
- Elon Musk: The entrepreneur and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is a prolific reader who has cited reading as one of the most important habits that have contributed to his success. He is known to read a wide variety of books, from science fiction to biographies to history and physics.
Strategies for Cultivating Reading Habits
Let’s face it, we all have our favorite excuses for not reading more. “I’m too busy,” “I don’t have enough time,” “I have to catch up on my shows,” and the classic, “I don’t like reading.” Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but those excuses won’t cut it if you want to be a great leader.
Luckily, I’m here to help you overcome your book-avoidance tendencies with some great tips. And if you want more tips, read: Build a Reading Habit: 20 Tips for Making Time for Books.
Set aside time for reading
Schedule regular reading time in your day, such as reading for 30 minutes before bed or reading during your commute. Treat it as a priority, just like any other important task.
Choose books that align with your goals
Select books that relate to your personal or professional goals. If you want to improve your communication skills, for example, choose books on communication and public speaking.
If you’re not used to reading regularly, start with shorter books or articles. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a 500-page book if you’re not used to reading for extended periods.
Read in a comfortable environment
Choose a comfortable spot to read, whether it’s a cozy chair or a quiet corner of a café. Make sure the environment is conducive to reading and free from distractions.
Join a book club
Joining a book club with other reading leaders or starting one with colleagues or friends can help you stay accountable and motivated to read regularly.
Reading is like a secret superpower that all great leaders possess.
By cracking open a book, you can unlock benefits like improved critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills. So, set some reading goals, pick up some inspiring books on leadership and management, and incorporate reading into your daily routine.
Your brain (and your team) will thank you for it!