Leaders are Readers – Learners are Earners

For decades, authors have studied the characteristics of great leaders in every field. While volumes have been written on the common strengths of front-runners worldwide, most of the emphasis has been placed on the same dozen or so attributes that authors feel readers want to hear about. One distinguishing quality of all great leaders is often over-looked and/or taken for granted by researchers and authors and that is the fact that Leaders are Readers!

At a recent PR Risk, Crisis and Trust Communications Conference, I had a very interesting conversation with one of the attendees during my self imposed coffee break and her “must stretch my legs” break. Our connection started with her asking me about my target market and whether I helped only small businesses. After a rather convoluted yes – involving some discussion surrounding the “S” that was removed from the Business Development Corporation and NEDCO’s role – we got to talking about manager’s who don’t read – not just books – but emails sent to appraise them of a situation which they would then ask questions about in a meeting – as if hearing about the information for the first time -forcing you to roll your eyes in wonderment and exasperation. Simply summarized she found that the managers she worked with did not keep up to date at all. She felt that once they got to a certain position that they assumed an attitude of “I reach” and that they felt they need not learn anything else!

Consider this:

  • 33,000 new products are launched every year (costing billions of dollars) – yet as many as 75% fail. Why? Most marketers don’t know what customers want.
  • Many business fail within 3-5 years from start up. Why? Because many don’t know what they need to do to stay profitable and grow.
  • Internationally 38 corporations fell off the Fortune 500 in 2009 alone, and 429 of the original 500 from 1955 are gone. Why? Their leaders lost touch with changes in their respective industries, with new technologies and new customer demands.

We now have access to more information, than at any time in history – about 500 Exabytes on the Internet alone (an Exabyte being one quintillion bytes), yet in a time where one false move can destroy your business or wipe out your wealth – it is harder than ever to find a handful of insights to drive your major business decisions. In a world where we seem to have an explosion of information – insightful information seems hard to identify.

What do Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and A.G Lafley have in common? They read. Warren Buffet , easily the most successful investor in history, credits his success to spending the majority of his day reading, hunkered down in the details of company annual reports, business periodicals and numerous other books.

In a New York Times Article titled: “C.E.O Libraries Reveal Key to Success” it cites “Serious leaders who are serious readers build personal libraries dedicated to how to think, not how to compete.” It goes on to say “Personal libraries have always been a biopsy of power. The empire-loving Elizabeth I surrounded herself with the Roman historians, many of whom she translated, and kept one book under lock and key in her bedroom, in a French translation she alone of her court could read: Machiavelli’s treatise on how to overthrow republics, “The Prince.” Churchill retreated to his library to heal his wounds after being voted out of power in 1945 — and after reading for six years came back to power.”

A recent study showed that 45.1% of adults didn’t read a book all year, only 12% of adults read one book per month and a tiny minority – just 4% read at least one book per week. Which category do you think Warren, Bill and A.G fit into? Indeed the tiny minority of readers – who are incidentally also leaders!

Although the publishing industry is a thriving one, the truth is that many people who buy books rarely get past page 18. There are two major obstacles to reading. One we’ve already established – too much information and the other is of course – not enough time available for reading and reading is a time intensive activity.

There are really only two ways to get around the reading challenge. One is to of course do the heavy lifting yourself and commit to reading at least a book a week. The other option is to invest in a book summary service.

Some people bluntly say they don’t read. They say they would read if only they had the time.

People who don’t read cheat themselves. By not reading, you limit what you can achieve, make mistakes you could avoid, and miss opportunities that could improve your life. Soon, as the gaps in your knowledge become apparent to others, you must reconcile yourself to not being taken seriously. I will also be blunt: You have time to do what you choose to do. So please do yourself a huge favor and make the time to read.

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