The habit of in-depth reading has become one of the essential characteristics of great leaders, Political and Professional. Why should you read books to be a good leader? Here are 9 reasons.
“The world belongs to those who read.”
Do Leaders Read?
What do Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Barak Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, JK Rowling, and Albert Einstein have in Common?
The answer is relatively simple. Common traits to them are that they are wealthy, highly successful in their areas of work, and great influencers of their times.
There is one more thing common to all of them. Reading, a lot of books, to be specific.
Need a Check? Please visit the blog of Bill Gates, in which he shared an elaborate list of books that he read and reviewed.
Kerry A Dolan of Forbes magazine in her interview(1) with Bill Gates’s father asks, What sort of a child was Bill?
Bill Sr. tells Kerry that Gates was an avid reader. To control the habit of reading, he and his wife had to institute a rule, no books at the dinner table.
JK Rowling, in her childhood, used to read anything that she can lay her hand. Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, too, loved reading.
Think of any famous and successful person you admire; I bet that they too love reading.
Reading and Leadership
John Coleman, in his article For Those Who Want to Lead, Read (2) on Harvard business review, expresses his concern on how lack of reading affects leadership:
Even as global literacy rates are high (84%), people are reading less and less deeply. The National Endowment for the Arts has found that “[r]eading has declined among every group of adult Americans,” and for the first time in American history, “less than half of the U.S. adult American population is reading literature.” Literacy has been improving in countries like India and China, but that literacy may not translate into more or deeper reading.
This is terrible for leadership, where my experience suggests those trends are even more pronounced. Business people seem to be reading less — particularly material unrelated to business. But deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.
John Coleman adds on how the industry titans are avid readers, highlighting the need for good reading habit:
According to The New York Times, Steve Jobs had an “inexhaustible interest” in William Blake; Nike founder Phil Knight so reveres his library that in it you have to take off your shoes and bow; and Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman called poets “the original systems thinkers,” quoting freely from Shakespeare and Tennyson. In Passion & Purpose, David Gergen notes that Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein reads dozens of books each week.
Warren Buffet, in all his interviews highlights, he reads 5 to 6 hours every day. Mr. Buffet credit most of his knowledge to this one single habit, he developed right from a very young age.
“Read 500 pages like this every day,” the Berkshire Hathaway CEO told a group of MBA students at Columbia Business School in 2000. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.
All of you can do it, but I guarantee not very many of you will do it.”
Is reading a New Phenomenon?
If you look at history, all our great leaders, from America to India, across the length and breadth of the world, are all great readers.
History acknowledges that the habit of deep and broad reading has helped to cultivate the knowledge and talents to improve their work and organizations.
The Nobel Prize in Literature, 1953, was awarded to Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (3). The award was given for his mastery of historical and biographical description and for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values
Mahatma Gandhi was an avid reader and that his readings had a profound impact on shaping his mind. Gandhi Ji had thousands of books in his collection. Kiriti Bhavsar, Mark Lindly, and Purnima Upadhyay in their work, The Bibliography of Books Read by Mahatma Gandhi (4), compiled 4,000+ books. The list gives us an insight into how intellectual and an avid reader Mahatma Gandhi was.
This brings us to this crucial question:
Why Should you read books to become a Leader?
My answer is a big Yes. Here are nine reasons why you should read books and the improvements reading can bring to you, and help you become a good leader.
1. Improves Intelligence & Innovation
Research by Scientists of Carnegie Mellon University (5) on children revealed that reading helps with fluid intelligence, reading comprehension, and emotional intelligence.
This capability aids you to make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you.
Reading improves intelligence and innovation as you get exposed to new and more complete information. You get smarter as you are equipped with the latest world knowledge.
Reading helps you to develop an ability to visualize all angles of an issue and all its perspectives and viewpoints. You can nurture to think out of the box and creatively too.
Intelligence, Creativity, and innovation are the three essential traits of all successful people.
2. Develop effective leadership
Reading makes you effective in leading others. Reading increases verbal and emotional intelligence. It gives you the right insights and perspectives to have a clear vision.
Reading helps you to get smarter. It equips you with a more extensive vocabulary and intellectual reading skills.
An articulate communicator and an adept person have excellent organizational skills, and this helps to become a good leader and makes you effective.
Inc magazine article on What executives Read (6), features many promising business leaders, who attribute their leadership development to reading books.
The feature also highlights how reding served as the primary source of knowledge to keep abreast of what is happening around the world, understanding people and decision making.
Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader.
3. Learn faster
Books are labors of love of their authors. Books give you the experience of a lifetime, the hard work, lessons, and reflections in a neat handheld package.
There is no problem that you are facing now, which is not met by anyone earlier, not documented on how to overcome it?
Every course that is taught in this world has a matching book to go with it. You can learn very quickly by reading from other’s experiences and adapt faster in an ever-changing environment.
A research conducted by Carnegie Mellon University Scientists (5) discovered that reading creates new white matter in the brain, which improves system-wide communication.
White matter carries information between regions of grey matter, where any information is processed. Not only does reading increase white matter, but it also helps information be processed more efficiently, which will help you to learn faster.
4. Get World Experiences
Reading gives us world experiences through the eyes of the person who has lived there and experienced it. A glimpse of other cultures and places. You can learn very effectively by not going through the pain of learning from your own mistakes and experiences.
Reading helps to develop global knowledge and perspectives, wherever you are.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
5. Become an Expert
According to Brian Tracy, an acclaimed international coach on success, reading 100 books on the subject helps you to become an expert in your chosen field. If you repeat this for 5 years, you can become an international expert in that field.
If you seriously focus and follow-through, with the availability of all resources digitally in the form of blogs, websites, feeds, etc., you can cut down this period to 2 to 3 years.
“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”
6. Develop focus
Reading needs brain power and helps you to develop concentration. It takes you through a journey of ideas, feelings, emotions, thinking, and analysis on what the topic you are reading. It also helps you to set goals and achieve them.
Whenever you read, you have a target in mind. It may be to finish reading the article or the book or to gain some insights or to draw something out of it. Developing focus helps you to concentrate on the most critical tasks on your hand, weed out the clutter, and deliver results.
7. Get productive
Reading helps you to develop the ability to reflect. While perspectives and insights help you to look at the issues from the other side, developing reflection capabilities helps you to visualize the problems from your point of view.
Reading helps you to develop the abilities to take action based on your insights so that you can be more productive.
8. Train your Brain
Reading is an active mental process. When you are reading, though all of your body is relaxing, your brain is racing with mental activity. Reading helps your mind to exercise and develop the mental muscle. Your brain can store, remember, and recall an unlimited capacity of information.
By reading regularly, you defy the Homer Simpsons belief: every time you learn something new, it pushes out some of the old stuff out of your brain. You can enhance your memory, information retention, and retrieval capacity. You can become sharp and smart.
9. Virtual Learning
Reading is a fundamental skill builder. Reading daily causes significant increases in connectivity with the left temporal cortex of the brain – an area associated with the receptivity of languages.
Avid reader’s experiences embodied semantics, a process that mirrors brain connectivity that occurs during actual actions.
Example: reading about driving a car triggers the same neural connections triggered when you are driving. This helps you to build and develop some real-time experiences, virtually.
While there can be many reasons for how reading can help you to succeed and become competent, the above, as per me, are the most important ones.
Before you go
Hope I answered the question, Why should you read books to be a good leader?
Having now known and understood all the benefits of reading books and how reading books can help you get better, what next?
Reading is very much easy and simple. Just pick a book of your choice and start reading. Slowly, develop the habit of reading regularly.
How to read regularly?
Set aside some 20 to 30 min of your time every day for reading. Or whatever is convenient for you. In 30 min, you can read 20 pages. At this speed, you can read a book in 10 days, some 20 to 30 books in a year.
Just pick a book you like and Start reading. See yourself evolve in to a good leader.
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- How To Raise A Billionaire: An Interview With Bill Gates’ Father, Kerry A Dolan, January 18, 2016 issue of Forbes
- For those who want to Lead, Read, www.hbr.org
- The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953. NobelPrize.org
- Bibliography of Books read by Mahatma Gandhi, www.gujaratividyapith.org
- Carnegie Mellon Scientists Discover First Evidence of Brain Rewiring in Children, www.cmu.edu
- What Chief Executives Read: Profiles of successful entrepreneurs, their favorite books, and how reading helps them run their companies, www.inc.com