Even time poor leaders are readers. And if not (yet), do you know how much better a leader you could be(come) as an avid reader?
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Almost 30 years ago, I was connected with some very wealthy and very influential international business people. Some of whom I was lucky enough to develop a mentoring relationship with. And learned soooo much from.
I remember so well how one of them shared two very valuable insights with me. He said:
- very rarely will your economic success come before your personal development hunger, and
- if you’re serious about developing that personal success, I urge you to read at least one personal or professional development book EVERY month. He said: “leaders are readers, and readers are leaders”. Such sage advice.
And since then I’ve read at least 20 personal or professional development books each year. Every year. And still do.
Why are leaders readers? And why readers are often leaders
Can you sense whether the person you’re speaking with is a reader or not? I have found I can. And also get it right most times. How?
Well, their vocabulary to start. I’ve coached so many business leaders, or those transitioning into leadership from very diverse cultural backgrounds. With varying commands of the English language. Which, if they’re doing business in English is a necessity. Particularly as a leader. Every one of those clients has either become a habitual reader or started reading even more. Despite being time poor.
They just “got it”.
Irrespective of background, language finesse plays such an important role in influencing outcomes. Isn’t that what leaders have to do most? Consistent reading and ongoing practice is where that finesse comes from. And hanging around admired communicators to learn from.
Language often tells the story. And is often conveyed so much more effectively in the form of a story.
I’ve found seasoned readers also seem to speak less. They ask more and better questions. To get the other person talking. And I’ve found they often also listen better before they speak. Instead of “jumping in“. Unless their (lack of) self-worth has them feel the necessity to show how much they know…
They appear more confident that they can trust that knowledge, or wisdom or experience simply “emerge” when they need it. Because they know they are well read.
I’ve also found they are better able to escape from the detail and become more strategically oriented in their leadership transition.
In my blog Being More Strategic I address that transition. Emphasizing The Power of Summarizing and getting into the habit of practicing to boil a say 500 word article down to less than 50 words. Developing the skill of “one page management“. Where we acknowledge that we are all time poor, and long for the “executive summary” so we don’t have to read all those words often addressed to us, right?
“If you’re lacking vision you’re just not standing on enough books“. My late mum used to say “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are”. We are who we hang out with. And thank goodness that’s a choice. The people I’ve chosen to be associated with most all over the world are usually also avid readers.
Green and growing or ripe and rotting?
An unsavoury picture maybe, but I so relate to it. Personal and professional development is a “fetch obligation“. Incumbent on all of us to remain hungry to keep learning. To keep improving. Always growing. So we keep innovating. Particularly in today’s competitive world.
I’m saddened to observe that the reading I’m talking about seems to be more prevalent in “older” generations. While the younger generations are more invested in listening and watching via technology, I find very few being avid readers. Of personal and professional development material. Irrespective of the media they’re presented in. “Technical skills” prevail. People skills rather rarely. And hardly with an appreciation for the language finesse (and hence influence) they’re missing out on.
So how do we choose the right books for us and where do we find them? I’ve found good networkers will use “what are you reading” as a useful “icebreaker” at the start of conversations.
And I’ve found that most personal and professional development books refer to other good books in their related fields. So there’s never a shortage of recommended reading.
Reading and Wisdom
Reading contributes to our wisdom. Coupled with our life experience, our professional experience and expertise, I’ve found that trying to apply and live what we’ve read enables us to instinctively know the right questions of a clients’ situation. Questions that help them better tell us what they’re looking for. And questions that help them break through barriers or constraints in their thinking to find exactly the clarity they seek at that time.
Clients often ask me what I’m reading. And, knowing each other from our work together, often also ask what I’d recommend them to be reading next. I’ve found that to further cement our trusted relationship. Many of these books have spawned wonderful internet based networking communities and enriching relationships. All of which are a constant pleasurable source of learning, insights, humour and knowledge. Which over time has helped develop into very valuable wisdom.
Wisdom I’ve been able to leverage every day in my coaching and mentoring of hundreds of business executives, owners and professionals in over 30 countries now.
Wisdom I’ve been able to inject into my blogs which are being consumed by thousands of people just like you and me all over the world. Every day. To feed their curiosity. To be hungry to learn and develop and to grow their insights to help us all be the best version of we that we can be.
Guiding the next generation
Another aspect I often remind my clients of is that our children often don’t do as we say. They emulate what we do. My own experience is that seeing you read awakes that same curiosity in our children. We’re very privileged to be “live-in grandparents” of one set of grandchildren. Both grandchildren and grandparents love little more that reading together. Being guided to where so much interesting “stuff” can be learned. And when we visit our other set of grandchildren I’m always touched when they ask “Opi” to sit down and read them a few stories. Even the older ones, albeit they now do some of the reading for us. And they know that books don’t have to be bought. There are heaps in every library.
As a leader, this same guidance applies to the way you lead your people. Helping them to want to develop themselves. Referring them to relevant books where they can find the answers they seek. Rather than you telling them. Appreciating that leaders are readers, and seeing the value to be worth emulating.
I have found that books have become such a loyal friend and accomplice to my life’s work. They generate such warmth and comfort. And spawn such wonderful debate and conversation.
In my case they have also become such an important part of my and my wife’s relationship. We often both read the same books and love comparing notes. Often amazed at what different messages each of us extracted from reading exactly the same words.
Leaders are Readers – so What?
So if you aren’t already a reader and want to be a leader, may I strongly recommend that you get yourself on a book of the month program. It’s the habit that fuels the enjoyment of getting into rhythm with one of the most enriching and rewarding personal and professional development programs you’ll ever find. Why? Because you set the pace and the direction of the content. With as much external guidance as your personality allows.
My experience is that it won’t take long for people to “know” that you’re a reader. Someone that has something to say. Confidently. And someone worth listening to.