“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx
“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” ― Ernest Hemingway
We’ve heard it said too many times to count that “leaders are readers.” It’s one of the lessons they teach in Leadership 101. Read, read, read. As an introvert, this advice has been easy to take to heart and put into practice. I have friends and family members who don’t like to read and will never pick up a book to mine its wisdom. That’s okay for them. They can grow in their leadership in other ways. For the readers among us, we’ve found some benefits in reading books that we don’t get anywhere else. Here are a few of my favorites.
Reading books helps us stay current.
With the advent of the Internet, books are the slow turtle in the race for fresh information. The turnaround time from the submission of a manuscript to a publisher to when it is available for sale can take up to a year. Quick information is available 24/7 on the World Wide Web. However, when we want to dig deeper into a subject, we rely on books to help us sort through the weight of research. When we read Jim Collins’ classic, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t or Chip and Dan Heath’s, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work or Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, we have hours of the most relevant and best research on the topic at our fingertips. We have food for thought rather than a snack for skimming.
Reading books helps us observe different leadership styles.
Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and styles. The way John Maxwell leads and writes is not the same way Jack Welch leads and writes. (I have an amazing grasp of the obvious.) Through their words, we get a sense of who they are as leaders and how they approach the various leadership challenges that we all face. There is room for a variety of styles at the leadership trough. The diamonds are there for our choosing.
Reading books is fun.
This one varies in degree according to our personal taste. I find reading pleasurable while some of my extroverted friends find reading a chore. There is a joy in discovering new insights as I pore over the latest Malcolm Gladwell offering (David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants). Fresh wisdom is mashed with existing wisdom in our heart and mind to give us a new creative edge.
Reading books gives us perspective into our situation.
One of my favorite authors is psychologist and leadership consultant Henry Cloud (Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships and Being Ridiculously in Charge; Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses and Relationships That All of us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward; 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life). When I read some of the composite stories of clients from his counseling practice or business consultations, I sometimes say to myself, “Thank God, I’m not that messed up.” Other times I say, “God, help me to be more like that person.” Reading gives us perspective into our situation by helping us meet people we would not have encountered in daily life. We would have missed out on some much needed perspective for our own situation.
Reading books affirms who we are.
This benefit is related to the one above. A couple years ago, Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs was a bestseller. With any individual we read about, there are things we relate to and things we don’t relate to in their story. I’ll never be Steve Jobs and neither will you. There was only one. In the same way, there is only one you and only one me. Reading helps to affirm who we are and who we are not. It reminds us to celebrate our unique contribution to the world.
Reading books gives us practical ideas.
When we read great books like Todd Henry’s, The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice or Peter Bregman’s, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distractions and Get the Right Things Done, we’re taken to the toolbox of the author and shown what has worked for them. Because we share the human condition, their ideas may help us to be more effective in our leadership. Even if we don’t use the same idea in the way it is presented in the book, it may spark a thought in our mind as to how we can handle a challenge we are facing.
We take the books that we’ve read, mix in our experience, combine it with our personality, add it all together with our skills and talents to be the creative leaders we are meant to be. Those that make a difference in the lives of those we lead.
What books have had the most impact on your leadership? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Check out my reading list and add your suggestions below.
To go the extra mile see: http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-retain-more-of-what-you-read.html