Saturday, February 21, 2009

…But all Leaders Must be Readers

The National Endowment for the Arts recently found that 57% of Americans did not read a book last year and an AP poll found that 27% did not read a book in 2007. Either way, the story is not good. I can tell you from first hand experience that most of my friends do not even have bookshelves, much less books. But they do have shelves and shelves filled with DVDs organized like the Library of Congress. These are terrible stats, yet Amazon.com has released the Kindle 2. Go figure.

If you want to get ahead at work, you should be reading constantly. If you want to succeed as a leader, you will want to read more than that.

Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders must be readers. - Harry Truman
As a leader, you need a wide perspective. You need ideas from seemingly unrelated places. You need examples of how to do things from people who have done it before. You get these from reading. The more you read the more adept you will become at putting different ideas together as your own and implementing them.

After all, implementing (taking action) your ideas is all that matters.

Many people say they just don’t have time to read. Well, I disagree. There are few people busier than the President of the United States. George W. Bush read 95 books in 2006. Karl Rove, his advisor, read 110 that year. You can bet President Obama reads in similar fashion.

Do you still think you don’t have time to read? Make the time.

You should have a goal to read at least 12 books per year. Or if you prefer: one book per month. My goal is to read one book per week, and I am on book six for far this year. It is not that difficult to do if you turn off the TV an hour early every night.

I owe much of my success as a manager to reading all of the management and leadership books I did and putting what I read into practice. How could I just know how to do things without first learning about it? How could I find my own leadership-style without learning from the styles of others? I couldn’t. Nor can anyone successful.

So start today and make a point of reading more. It is the best way to get ahead and stay ahead. And in these uncertain, economic times, managers need all the help we can get.

This list ought to get you through the rest of this year:

The One-Minute Manager
The 360 Degree Leader
Self-Leadership and the One-Minute Manager
Jack: Straight from the Gut
Good to Great
The Practice of Management
The Effective Executive
The Leadership Challenge
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Execution
Managing Transitions
Whale Done

If you read all of these books this year, and take actions from each one in your work, it will make a noticeable difference in the performance of your team and thus, your performance.

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