Friday, July 10, 2015

why leaders read

This past week I returned from a month-long stay in Blue Hill, Maine where the majority of my time is spent reading.  Many people know that one of the joys Deb and I have during our stay in Maine is being able to sit and read...sometimes for up to 8 hours a day.  People have asked whether I read for pleasure or for work...and my typical response is that I read for both.  It is difficult for me to decide whether reading Robert Caro's 4-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson is for pleasure or for work, since I learn so many leadership lessons throught the books AND it is a story that captivates my attention.  It is also difficult for me to distinguish between the two when I read the short stories of Raymond Carver as I am learning about other people and the day-to-day struggles they face in life.

Someone once stated to me that "all leaders are readers" (and that the converse is not necessarily true).  I truly believe that maxim, so today's blog is my personal take on why leaders should read - and how it can enhance their leadership.  Over the next few weeks I will apply leadership to specific books I read last month as well as why certain categories of books are important for leaders. For a deeper insight into this topic, I would recommend Mark Edmundson's book Why Read?

  1. To learn how NOT to lead: there are many characters in books (fiction and non-fiction) that depict the worst of leadership...they will make you cringe and swear never to act in a similar manner
  2. To learn about those you lead: reading (especially great fiction) introduces the reader to all types of people and all types of lifestyles...these are the people who work with and for you, so getting to know about them through good literature helps you better understand their personal needs, hopes, and dreams
  3. To better understand why you lead the way you do: as readers encounter different figures throughout books, they will resonate with some and not others...ask WHY you resonate with certain individuals you read about and what it is about them that made them tick (the same probably applies to you)
  4. To solidify your leadership patterns: similar to above, but with a more definite purpose as to HOW you will you observe (through reading) the actions of others, you can further develop your personal leadership skills
  5. To realize that there is nothing new under the sun: all of the different aspects of people and organizations that leaders face have happened to others (and your organization) are not unique or special and others have faced what you will face today and in the future
  6. To learn NEW ways of leading: great literature and writing will always have the reader say to themselves "I never thought of it that way before"...take these new ideas and try them out in your role as a leader
  7. To become a better person: great books have a way of affecting the heart and soul of those who are willing to engage with them on a deep level...don't be afraid of looking in the mirror as you read and consider what you might need to change about yourself
  8. To relax and enjoy the comfort of a good book: leadership is hard work and being able to escape into the act of reading is both therapeutic and relaxing (though not always easy)...renewing your energy is important for you, for those you lead, and for your organization
So and find a good book, pour yourself a cup of coffee (or other beverage of your choice), situate yourself in an environment where you will not be distracted or disturbed for several hours, and READ!

1 comment:

LearnerJim said...

One of the best leadership team development exercises I have seen is a "book club" Each month a different member of the team chooses a book that the rest of the team reads and they meet to discuss what they have learned from the book and how they will apply it to improving their team and organization. Great post Don along with the book list.