At LDN we are avid readers of books and articles on all aspects of leadership success and development. We refer to many of them when we lead seminars and workshops, and are often asked to recommend readings on specific topics, our latest discoveries or our all-time favourites.
On the other hand, we regularly hear the lament “I’m just not a reader, I am simply too busy.” These words should sound a warning if they come from those who aspire to key leadership roles.
It’s not good enough in the information age to say they haven’t got time or just never got into the habit of reading. People who favour action over reflection, and today’s tasks over preparing for the future, will one day be left behind.
Staying on top of your game
Reading is essential to keep up to date on the latest trends in your field. Just as the body needs to be nurtured with good diet, exercise and sleep, the mind needs to be broadened with new ways of thinking. Time regularly set aside to absorb ideas outside the realm of everyday experience helps leaders build capacity to deal with new and unfamiliar challenges.
Besides increasing general knowledge, reading has other benefits. It engages different parts of the brain that call on the ability to comprehend, imagine and develop ideas. Processing the written word is more complex than talking to a friend or watching a movie. Classical literature, in particular, uses more precise and elegant language than everyday conversation, increasing vocabulary and capacity for critical thinking.
Enhancing emotional intelligence
Reading about business makes good sense, but what about fiction? Keith Oatley, professor emeritus in cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, says that reading fiction enhances a person’s emotional intelligence through greater understanding of both the characters and human nature in general. A novelist himself, Oatley believes fiction offers the opportunity to experience emotions in books that people would not otherwise encounter.
Reading can be a wonderful escape from the stress of everyday life. Research shows it slows the heart rate and eases tension in muscles in just a few minutes. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that silent reading lowered stress by 68 percent, beating listening to music (61 percent) and taking a walk (42 percent).
Five tips for making reading easier
- Subscribe to an executive book summary service to access summaries you can read in about 10 minutes.
- Buy the book if you want to explore it in depth, in hard copy or soft copy for your electronic reader.
- Subscribe to business journals that carry articles relevant to your business or industry.
- Find a couple of websites that have articles and blogs on topics of specific interest to you.
- Share your reading with your team so you can challenge each other on decisions you need to make.