Leaders are readers

There are many factors that make a good leader, but one of the most important is intellectual curiosity combined with a thirst for knowledge.

Greater knowledge provides a rich well from which you can draw to help stimulate new ideas, thinking and perspectives. It can help you to devise strategy or to anticipate potential scenarios, as well as better able to handle any obstacles and setbacks. The better informed you are, the more opportunities you’ll spot, and the better your decision making is likely to be.

As well as your personal life experiences, reading is one of the most effective and efficient means of obtaining knowledge. Unlike watching television or online videos, which are passive activities, research has shown that reading is a much more effective means of absorbing and understanding information.

And reading from paper books has been shown to be more effective than reading from electronic devices. This is because the typical person can read a printed page much faster than an electronic one.

Published books are also subject to much higher quality control over the content than much of what is written online. While printed books do make mistakes on content, my experience is that these are much less frequent than found online.

Reading also causes your brain cells to burn about twice as many calories as it would normally, so learning new things can also help keep you in trim as well!

It is certainly possible to gain knowledge from reading fiction books, particularly those with lots of historical, scientific or economics detail. Non-fiction books, however, are likely to provide the richest source of knowledge, because facts are the basis of their content, not merely a backdrop.

Reading a wide and diverse range of biographies, historical, military, political, personal development, philosophy, business, and psychology related books is likely to yield the best knowledge ‘return’.

Acquiring knowledge, however, requires effort and discipline. In our digital, hyper-connected, ‘always on’ world, it’s easy to slip into lazy ways.  Publishers advise that few non-fiction books are read all the way through, with most readers giving up after about 80 pages.

I was an avid reader as a child and in my 20s and 30s I usually always had a book ‘on the go’, but I never usually read more than about 15 books a year.  

I now read (carefully and thoroughly) about 50 books a year! Here is how I do it.

I always read with a pencil and a pad of small coloured sticky notes.

1) I always have two new books ‘in stock’ so I am never without something to read.

2) I maintain a ‘wish list’ of new books on Amazon, which I might purchase in the future, so I don’t do impulse purchases, either when I hear about a new book or Amazon sends me promotional emails.

3) I always buy paper books and always seek the cheapest net price for a nearly new version (which is not always from Amazon), on the basis that I don't require quick delivery.

4) Once a month I choose a book from my personal library to re-read. It’s amazing how much more you get from a second read.

5) Every day I read 20 pages first thing in the morning and 20 pages before I go to bed. This ensures that I can read 280 pages a week, which is about the size of most non-fiction books. If the book is longer than 280 pages, or I am particularly enjoying it, I read extra pages as I can throughout the day, whenever I get a few minutes.

6) I always read with a pencil and a pad of small coloured sticky notes. This enable me to mark interesting and important text with the sticky notes, making it easier for me to identify the location when I have finished the book.    

Despite the Internet giving us all access to almost limitless amounts of information, it is only through the disciplined, regular and careful reading of quality paper books, that meaningful and lasting knowledge is to be found.

So, if you want to be a better leader, make sure you become a better and more prolific reader.

Warm regards

Jason