Read. Lead. Succeed.
We’ve been using that tagline on bookmarks, our web site, and other development materials for years. It’s not just three catchy words that rhyme. There’s plenty of evidence to show that many highly effective leaders are avid readers.
In his Harvard Business Review article, “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read,” John Coleman writes, “deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.” He points out that, “history is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers and writers (remember, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace), but with business leaders who believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.”
Neuroscience is showing that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. As an avid reader and author, I’ll admit to perhaps a little bias on the importance of leadership books! As Socrates advised way back when, we should improve ourselves by other people’s writing so, “you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.”
Effective leadership and learning are intertwined more than many people realize. When we see strong leaders we often don’t appreciate how hard they’ve worked to develop their abilities. They make it look so natural. Leadership researcher and author, Warren Bennis, spent much of his career trying to dispel the myth of the born leader. He writes,
“Biographies of great leaders sometimes read as if they entered the world with an extraordinary genetic endowment, as if their future leadership role was preordained. Do not believe it. The truth is that major capacities and competencies of leadership can be learned if the basic desire to learn them exists.”
Growth is a vital sign of life. We’re most alive when we’re more than human beings, we’re human becomings. As the world and our lives continue accelerating at Mach speed, it’s easy for growth to stagnate. We have no time to become more effective, so we speed up our ineffectiveness.
Tomorrow we publish my May blog posts in our June issue of The Leader Letter. This issue discusses the speed trap that snares many leaders and makes them runner faster, not smarter. You’ll also see the results of our “readersourcing” survey on book topics and have a chance to participate in stage two of my next leadership book. You can also get high again — on your career. And we’ll discuss a critical learning and development topic: succession planning.
May this issue help you avoid the problem Douglas Adams outlined in his book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”