“Leaders are readers.” When I first heard that statement almost two decades ago, I thought it to be a dubious assumption at best, but over the years, it has proven to be quite accurate. One consistent trait— which I have seen evidenced in the lives of all of the great leaders that I follow— is the discipline of reading books. Business leaders, pastors, non-profit leaders, radio-hosts, and politicians alike— the best, seem to be avid readers.
Growing up, I loathed reading. During the summer, my mother would make us have a mid-day “quiet time,” in which my brother and I had to keep our noses in a book for thirty minutes. The time crept by slowly. I remember watching the hands of the clock, as I counted down the minutes until I could go outside and play again (this is when children still went outdoors). In my teen years, my view on books didn’t change much. Reading caused me great anxiety and seemed to me, a terrible waste of time.
Some twenty years later, I cannot imagine a day going by without turning the pages of a book (or looking at my Kindle). Currently—in addition to the Bible—I have four nonfiction books going, and am now searching for my next novel. Why the change? Simply put, through multitudes of conversations, articles, podcasts, and life experiences, I have come to understand the extreme value in reading. What I once loathed, now fuels my personal growth and leadership, and has become one of my favorite pastimes; it is not longer an obligation, but a privilege. Below are three of the many benefits of reading.
- Learning: I know I am stating the obvious here, but one of the reasons I love to read is because it gives me the opportunity to gain insight from others. The lion’s share of my leadership philosophy and the way I think has been shaped by reading. I love that I get to learn from champion leaders’ successes and failures. Leaders are readers, because leaders are learners. You stop learning, you stop leading.
- Mind Stimulation: Reading always gets me thinking. Reading sparks deep and analytical thinking and helps get the creative juices flowing. I am not just talking about nonfiction: According to Psychology today (2014), even novels can improve brain function on a variety of different levels. So rather a novel or leadership book, the cognitive benefits of reading is astounding.
- Improved Writing and Speaking Skills: What goes in will eventually come out. My reading always translates to my writing and speaking. It has tremendously expanded my vocabulary, and has amplified my ability to tell stories (one of the reasons I read fiction). My public speaking, especially my preaching, has been greatly polished by all the books I have devoured over the last several years.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to share thoughts on how to become a disciplined reader and what to read. Until then, happy reading!