One Surprising Thing All Good Leaders Share

stacks of books ready for reading

What is the single most important practice for great managers and leaders to incorporate into their daily routine in order to sustain their edge?

This question has been put to me frequently over the years and, in my opinion, I believe there is one activity so crucial that all others are left competing for second place.

It is this: Read.

Read, read, read.

It is what we learn after we already know everything that makes the biggest differences in our lives.

I have yet to meet a successful business person who is not a voracious reader. I have read biographies of, and watched interviews with, some of the greatest leaders throughout history and the only truly common practice among all of them is their unwavering commitment to reading, studying and learning.

Reading Sets You Apart (Unfortunately)

A recent HuffPost/YouGov survey asked 1,000 US adults about their frequency of reading: 41% acknowledged they had not read a fiction book in the past 12 months, 42% had not read nonfiction, and, the scariest of all, 28% confessed to not reading a book at all.

Harry Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers."

Bill Gates, when asked recently what superpower he would choose if he could choose one, said his superpower of choice would be to be able to read much faster.

In anything we do we are either in the game or watching the game. When we are in the stands, fully decked out in team jersey, cheering on our favourite football team, regardless of how passionately we want our team to win, we are merely watching the game.

The players, on the other hand, down in the field, taking the hits and bouncing back up ready for more, are the only ones in the game. Remember, it is what they do, not what we, watching in the stands do, that profoundly influence the outcome of the game.

The same holds true for managers and leaders. Those who are truly committed to their profession ensure they are always current by obsessively reading and studying everything they can about their industry, business, trends, competitors and anything else relevant to their careers.

That’s what professionals do to always be in the game.

Those Who Lead, Read

I have never believed the old axiom, knowledge is power. It isn’t.

Power comes not from what we know, but from what we do with what we know.

Therefore, it stands to reason the more we know, the more choices we have available to us enabling us to make better decisions, which leads to being more effective.

Reading also provides us with a benefit not yet mentioned. Reading drives creativity within us as we have to attribute meaning, comprehension and interpretation to everything we read.

Reading causes us to build clear pictures in our minds, engage in powerful internal dialogue and helps to invoke the productive emotions that drive us to take action.

The Harvard Business Review has long been a beacon of light for those who wish to rapidly expand their own business knowledge, including this must-read article that will leave you hungrily reading everything you can get your hands on that relates in any way to what you do.

There’s an old saying, attributed to many authors, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

And the surest way to avoid ignorance is to read, read, read.

Read as if your life depends on it because, while your life may not depend on it, results in your life most assuredly do.

Till we read again.

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