Leaders are readers. I don’t know who said it, but I believe it. I recently heard that that the typical college grad doesn’t read another book after graduating from college (the number may be as high as 80%). The most recent edition of Wired Magazine, edited by Bill Gates and Bill Clinton featured a picture of Gates’s “mobile library.” That got me thinking, whileI don’t read near as much as I think I should, I’ve made it a priority to read good books. I believe that everyone can grow in their leadership capacity. One of the best ways, to grow is by reading good books.
Here are eight reasons why I think reading is one of the best ways to grow:
- Gaining new perspective—Most of us see the world through the lens of where we were raised, our family, our co-workers, and a few friends. Reading opens us up to people who live in other times and places, who work in other industries, and who assume things to be true that we’ve never even considered.
- Gaining access to experts—whether you’re a pastor, a manager, a teacher, an executive, a medical doctor, or a mom, there are people in your field that know more than you do (unless you’re Stephen Hawking, but he reads). Many of them write books. While it’s nearly impossible to spend time with experts, we can learn from what they’ve written. (In fact, if you ever get to meet a respected expert, read what they’ve written first, so you ask good questions.)
- Stimulating your own thinking—I find that reading is a great way to stimulate my own thinking. Sometimes I even stop reading and jot down notes in my journal or on my computer. Reading pulls me out of my mental ruts.
- Challenging bad thinking and habits—We all need feedback. We all have ideas that are not well-reasoned, or lack good information. We also have bad habits. Reading exposes us to a better way to think and live.
- Confirming good thinking and habits—It’s encouraging to emerge from your own little world and find you actually know what you’re doing!
- Improving your ability to think—The challenges to reading good books make it rewarding. Reading takes time, concentration, the ability to follow an argument or story for multiple pages (even multiple chapters in some cases!). These skills are the skills of thinking and reasoning.
- Expanding your horizons—When I read The Search for God in Guinness, I couldn’t believe the number ways Arthur Guinness and his beer company served their employees over the years (increased wages, health care, healthy employee housing, paying half salary to the families of employees while they were away fighting WWII, and more!). It opened up for me brand new possibilities in business and ministry.
- Asking good questions—Good answers begin with good questions. The best way to learn to ask good questions is by spending time with those who do. The best questions of human history are captured in good books. Reading them gives you access to those good questions and provides a model for good questions.
2014 is around the corner, challenge yourself to read a great novel and a good non-fiction book this coming year!
I’d love to hear from you—why do you read?
Steve, really good thoughts here. I totally agree about exposing yourself to experts through books. Although I mostly read non-fiction these days, I think fiction reading stokes our imagination and engages us in “story” in a way that can help our understanding of our role in the larger narrative of God’s work in human history. Cheers to good books!