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What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Read

Leaders Read

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. The last few weeks have been substantial in difficult stories shaking our nation from damaging hurricanes to the tragic Freeman school shooting. I wrote my weekly blogs on each of them saluting the leaders that emerged to light the way. As we pause a moment before our next adult and youth classes, let me write a quick blog not topical to national events but still important to leadership. Quite simply, leaders read. While seemingly based on common sense, I write this after I heard at a leadership conference that free reading is down overall nationally.
Why is this? One word – technology. In the past, many read on buses, trains and while a passenger in a car. Today, those same people read but many are skimming Facebook on a smart phone. Certainly, some read but the allure of social media has attracted many to give up reading, an alarming thought with consequence for leaders.
Reading inspires imagination. Our Arts Day is one of most popular days because it shows the power of creativity in helping leaders move ahead. Books stoke our imagination, showing us the world, possibilities and horizons we normally would never fathom. Science fiction certainly does just that but even nonfiction provides much to inspire our imagination. The famous true story Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand catalogues the incredible will of World War II POW Louis Zamperini, who seems a superhero in courage but truly is mortal like all of us. If he can do it, maybe we can remain unbroken.
Equally important, free reading improves our cultural competence which helps leaders connect to their diverse followers. Haruki Murakami reminds us: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Reading broadens the mind and gives different points of view. Books also ground us. President Lincoln famously is quoted as saying: “Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.”
George Ambler writes in an April 2013 article “Leaders Are Readers” that “Effective reading requires you read deeply, understand and apply the ideas and lesson to the challenges of the day.” He also recommends leaders read different genres to broaden their perspective. Ambler remarks that billionaire Warren Buffet spends eighty percent of his time reading. He has used the knowledge in books to build a broad financial empire.
Reading is not often talked about in leadership theories but its impact on the core characteristics of empathy, vision, healing and persuasion suggest it is indispensable to the well-rounded servant leader. Free reading is certainly not a lost art form, but it has taken a back seat for many as Facebook and Twitter recruit our attention elsewhere. Leaders should aspire to keep books in the forefront as they expand their horizons. Simply said, leaders read!
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” President Truman