Readers are Leaders, Are You Reading?

posted by Administrator on 09/01/2023 in Blog Posts  | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
By Tom Cramer


Harry S. Truman is well known for his “The Buck Stops Here” plaque that adorned his desk. He also gave us, though not as often attributed to him, the perhaps better-known quote, “Readers are Leaders.” This pithy encouragement for reading is a favorite of English teachers and contains some worthy wisdom.

According to many experts who have studied the differences between successful leaders and so-so executives, the habit of reading is a core differentiator. Numerous articles and studies point out the importance and value of reading, Moreover, the value of reading has never been more important in this era of innovation and rapid changes.

Why Reading?

According to the article “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read” in the Harvard Business Review, there is simply no substitute for reading. It cites research that shows reading improves intelligence, which is only one of a series of significant benefits. Interestingly, the article also notes that reading of all types, not just serious topics, is of value, including fiction and mysteries.

You may or may not be one who reads for pleasure. However, developing the habit of reading a variety of materials is a proven method for expanding your leadership skills. Experts note that avid readers have a better grasp of cultural cues, are more empathetic to others, and have a greater ability to relate to varied groups. These are all skills that are especially important in today’s DIE world.

One simple fact to ponder may provide the motivation to read more. It was stated that if you read one good book by an acknowledged expert in a field, you will know more about that topic than 99 percent of the people in the world. Depending on the topic, that can prove to be a powerful tool in establishing your authority and positioning.

For example, Phil Knight tells of the painful process of finally achieving success in his story, “Shoe Dog”, and you can pick up some real pointers on leadership from any work of Peter Drucker, especially his “The Effective Executive” and “Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” You might get a special thrill from listening to Michael McConachie’s “Sun-Tzu and the Art of Business.”

Another core consideration in today’s hyper-competitive world is that your strongest competitors are reading. They will gain insights and strategies that others will miss.

New research is providing even more insights into the power and benefits of reading. (Of course, you must read it to know that!). These include:

  • Increasing verbal intelligence which enhances communication skills.
  • Improving organizational effectiveness.
  • Providing an escape from the day-to-day drudgery that stifles creativity.
  • Developing higher emotional intelligence.
  • Broadening one’s base of experiences.
  • Spending time with intelligent and experienced individuals through their writing.
  • Fending off some effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

An investment of $25 in a worthy volume may deliver as much insight as a multi-thousand-dollar seminar with less investment of time and effort.

Not to be ignored for most is the pure pleasure of reading. The idea of “beach books” has a firm and proven place in our concept of relaxation and taking a break. Even if you don’t feel that sense of pleasure from reading, you can achieve many of these benefits from listening to audiobooks and many of today’s podcasts.

In fact, while the traditional bookstore has seen a decrease in numbers, there are more books and worthy articles being written today than ever before.

What to Read

Of course, it is always useful to be well-read in your specific industry and the general concepts of leadership and management. Leadership is a lonely position, and it is often encouraging to read about the experiences of past successful (and failed) leaders. You will often be encouraged to find that your challenges are not all that unique or insurmountable.

However, the good news is that the experts tell us that reading in general is the goal, and a variety of reading materials provides the best benefit.

So, the next time you have a twinge of guilt over reading that latest spy thriller, take comfort in the fact that you are doing something that will help make you a better leader.