Intelligent reading, a tool for effective leadership

The American philosopher and educator Mortimer Adler said, “Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life”. A life well lived is a life of leadership, so I dare say that reading is a tool for effective leadership.

“Readers are leaders” is also often said to motivate children to develop a habit of reading. Unfortunately, many children grow up to become leaders and forget to read.

I dare say that the lack of reading is one of the reasons many leaders have plateaued in their leadership.

Given that we have audiobooks, in this article, I refer to reading to include listening to audiobooks and a great podcast.

Some will argue that nothing beats the old-fashioned feeling of turning the page, but times have changed.

You may have had the habit, but now you no longer read or have never really enjoyed reading. Alternatively, like avid readers, you are eagerly anticipating your summer collection. Whatever your situation may be, you can get into the mood.

Here is a reminder to get started. Many leaders are wrapping up the half-year to begin their vacation. Several organisations and leaders are offering suggestions on what to read during the summer. Nothing is better than having a good book and lying on the sunny beaches of Accra.

Read to Lead

Many influential leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, had a voracious appetite for reading. Former President Obama spent an hour a day reading despite his busy schedule while in office.

Warren Buffet, the wealthy investor, is an avid reader and attributes much of his success to his reading habits. Bill Gates blogs about what he is reading and shares recommendations on essential books in various disciplines. You join this category of elite leaders as soon as you begin to read. Soon, the wisdom of many others starts
to flow into your life and leadership.

The business imperative to read

The benefits of reading are enormous. Reading introduces the reader to other perspectives and new ideas.

Through reading, we experience different worlds and develop a nuanced understanding of people, places and our relationship with our world. Not surprisingly, many readers are leaders, and great leaders keep the habit of reading.

How do you stay relevant without reading in a world that is changing and our knowledge is limited? You may not see it immediately, but you lose your advantage if you stop reading.

Reading also builds your vocabulary, which enhances your ability to communicate effectively, a critical soft skill much needed at work today.

You can read to live longer and many lives

Over six decades of research on the benefits of reading by scientists, doctors, and psychologists based on MRI scans and life outcomes have identified several benefits associated with reading.

Research has proven that reading strengthens your brain and increases your ability to empathise as you become exposed to other worlds and perspectives.

By reading regularly, you can prevent age-related cognitive decline and keep your brain sharp. It also reduces stress, prepares you for a good sleep and helps alleviate depression symptoms.

A long-term health and retirement study by Bavishi, Slade and Levy, “The Survival Advantage
of Reading Books”, published in 2017, concluded that people who read more than 3.5 hours every week were 23% more likely to live longer than those who did not read.

Bavishi, Slade and Levy followed a cohort of 3,635 adult participants for 12 years. So you can live many lives while living longer when you choose to read.

Sources you can review and select books from include

Rather than making specific book recommendations, I recommend sources you can visit and, based on your interest, select titles that you are motivated to read.

Today, you are not limited to your local library collection. Recently, the New York Times published “Read Your Way through Accra”, a collection of books authored by Ghanaian writers that give the reader a view into Accra’s history, showing its evolution from a fishing village to a port town during British colonial stay.
Gatesnotes.com summarises the books Bill Gates is reading and recommends books in various fields.

I recommend this if you want to read about new developments in your discipline or deepen your knowledge. He has published his summer reading recommendations, which include ‘Infectious Generosity,’ by Chris Anderson.

Many global organisations, such as McKinsey, offer excellent recommendations spanning business, leadership, economics, science, culture, politics, and more. JP Morgan’s 2024 summer list is out, and it features “Brave New Words: How AI Will Revolutionize Education (and Why That’s a Good Thing)” by Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy.

The New York Times has published its summer reading list. Several other global media outlets, such as BBC, CNN, and The Washington Post, also provide excellent recommendations.

Ideas for getting your reading routine started

If you are still looking for the motivation to read, here are a couple of suggestions you might find helpful. Get a couple of great books, and put them in places you will see every day so you can pick them.

Designate a specific time you want to read in the day. You can also create a reading club in your organisation.

You can also listen to audiobooks and make the journey to the office more enjoyable if you have a longer commute.

Refrain from forcing yourself to read an entire book if you lose interest. Just pick a new book and move on.

You may have judged the book by its cover, something you are not supposed to do. You can also read with your children. Wherever you turn to, you have an impressive collection to choose from. Read to live and lead.
Be of good cheer!

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