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A great leader is a great reader

As a leader you should be continually striving to develop your knowledge and insights in order to not only improve yourself, but to pass this on to your team to inspire and develop them too.  One of the keys ways you can do this is by reading.  Reading provides us with many opportunities for development, which is exactly why it is a key ingredient of becoming a great leader.  Let’s explore the specific ways…

A lot of the key concepts we wish to live by or guide our career through have derived from an inspirational piece we have read.  This could have been a classic novel you read in school, a quote you read on Twitter or a business article; it does not matter where it came from, it provided you with that inspiration.  Whether you reread that book or quote or find another new article relating to the concept, reading provides you with the reminder you need to ensure that initiative stays a significant part of your life or work strategy.

Reading about a topic which you haven’t had much previous knowledge on opens up opportunities for new ideas you may not have thought of.  Additionally, it provides a brand new discussion point and insight to share with your team to inspire them to a new way of thinking or to encourage them to see something from a different viewpoint.  Sharing a concept you have read about in a team meeting could help spark debate and innovation to then kick-start a creative, ideas-filled meeting!

Empathy is a vital part of leadership and research shows it can be enhanced by reading and in particular, reading literacy fiction.  Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano of the New School for Social Research conducted research into how reading can enhance the ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions.  The participants who had read literacy fiction performed better than those who had read non-fiction or popular fiction.

Another increasingly important part of leadership helped by reading, as highlighted by LeadershipWatch is the ability to build successful teams and collaborate across cultures.  Reading about different cultures helps you to have go beyond knowing just the necessities required for business and provides you with the opportunity to understand different cultures at a far deeper level; resulting in you being a more understanding and knowledgeable leader!  Additionally, if you are able to develop an insight into different cultures, research by Lee Kong Chian School of Business found it can help build stronger trust and increase cross-cultural effectiveness.

Reading increases verbal intelligence which is the intelligence we tend to rely on the most; to think and express ourselves proficiently through words.  LifeHack claim that reading will help to develop your verbal intelligence in two ways; through increasing understanding and acquiring new knowledge on concepts, and also through developing our core verbal skills in comprehension, vocabulary and expression.  You will become a more proficient and confident communicator and we are all aware how important strong communication skills are in leadership!

Reading provides us with a great opportunity to relax and unwind from our busy day as it calms the mind and allows us to focus on just that subject we are reading.  Our minds are extremely busy whirring away all day, so a break from all those thoughts and decisions and just focusing on what we are reading can be very beneficial.   Consultancy Mindlab International at the University of Sussex found that reading reduces stress levels by 68% – losing yourself in a book is the ultimate way to relax!  If you struggle to find time to read after work, then why not try listening to audio books on your drive or commute home!

If taking up more reading is a new goal for you then the following tips could help you get started…

  • Read something different from what you would have usually chosen
  • If you are struggling with getting to grips with a new concept at work or facing a problem, look at what literature is out there to help you
  • Encourage your team to read too by sending them recommended articles which they will find useful
  • Been putting off reading an autobiography or a fictional book because you do not think you can allow yourself the time? It is time to make a promise to yourself that you will read a certain number of pages per day or get to bed a few minutes earlier to allow yourself time to read

Let us know how reading helps you in your career and if you have any top book or article recommendations in the comments box below!

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