The Joseph Group

Become a Better Leader by Being a Better Reader

August 24, 2015

Want to be a better leader? Become a better reader. In excerpts below from e-mail blast, author, former CEO and virtual business coach Michael Hyatt, he shares his own perspective on the importance of reading and offers five ways that reading makes us better leaders:

Pollsters say reading is in the decline. A readership crisis is really a leadership crisis. And for people who know how to respond, crisis is just another word for opportunity.

I’ve been a serious reader for decades: business and personal development, history, the Bible, current events, theology, philosophy, even fiction. Reading is part of who I am and it’s enabled me to become the leader I am. And I’m not alone; many CEOs are famous for their libraries and wide-ranging reading interests.

“A readership crisis is really a leadership crisis.”
-Michael Hyatt

Here are five ways reading can uniquely develop and empower leaders:

  1. Reading Makes us Better Thinkers.
    1. Reading is one of the most efficient ways to acquire information, and leaders need a lot of general information to keep perspective and seize opportunities. But reading also actually upgrades our analytical tools, especially our judgment and problem-solving abilities.
    2. And correctly sizing up a situation-often with incomplete information and limited time-is critical for being an effective leader. Leadership professor Wesley Hill even recommends what he calls “irrelevant reading,” going outside your field to spark new thoughts and make fresh connections.
  2. Reading Improves Our People Skills.
    1. Sometimes we think of readers as antisocial introverts with their nose in a book, ignoring people around them. But reading can actually improve a leader’s people skills. When asked about the reading that helps her lead her business, one CEO said the insights about human nature in fiction and poetry has made all the difference in understanding and relating to her team. And empathy is a vital leadership skill for creating alignment, understanding motivation and setting organizational goals
  3. Reading Helps us Master Communication
    1. Reading uniquely expands our vocabulary. This is important for leaders because an expanded vocabulary means not only greater precision in our communication, but also the ability to choose words that are more persuasive and motivate the kind of behaviors we want.
  4. Reading Helps us Relax
    1. An ongoing challenge every leader faces is managing stress. One study compared reading to other stress relievers like walking, listening to music, or drinking a cup of tea. Reading was found the most effective, and it worked to lower heart rates and relieve tension in as few as six minutes.
    2. But it’s more than escape. Reading is “an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.” And this is especially helpful before sleep and why reading often is part of leaders’ nighttime rituals.
  5. Reading Keeps us Young
    1. Reading has been shown to keep us mentally sharp as we age. By exercising our brains with reading we might even be able to prevent dementia in later years.

There are a lot of things we can do to position ourselves in the marketplace. Reading is probably not the first thing many will think of, but it’s one of the best in my experience.

In fact, I cannot think of any other single activity that can produce this list of positive effects. And given the decades-long decline in reading, being a serious reader is an increasingly unique way to develop the insights and qualities essential for leadership. If you want to lead, you simply must read.

Source: Hyatt, Michael. “Five Ways Reading Makes You A Better Leader: The Science Behind Reading and Influence.” May 4, 2015. www.michaelhyatt.com