Leaders Read

I’ve always been a reader: fiction, non-fiction, comic books–seriously, anything I can get my hands on. I think a person who is a steady consumer of books is opening their mind in a way that’s not possible any other way. Watching videos and listening to lectures has their place, but books are the gateway because the printed words can only come alive in your own mind. No one has PowerPoint or YouTube videos to shape your imagination, you have to give life to the words on the page yourself.

Leaders can benefit from this concept because through books and the exercise of the mind that goes with reading, leaders can refine their own style and learn from others. As the great British humorist and moralist G. K. Chesterton once said, Learn from other’s mistakes, you don’t have time to make them all yourself.

Now, it seems Rochelle Ballis (and science) over at Forbes Magazine agrees with me:

According to Forbes:

It turns out that you develop skills from reading fiction that simply do not emerge from consuming other forms of content. Reading literary fiction is strongly correlated with a higher capacity to understand what’s going on in other people’s heads, a talent often referred to as “theory of mind.”

In 2006 York University psychologist Raymond Mar and his colleague performed a study that examined lifetime exposure to both fiction and non-fiction. They found that engaging with fiction positively correlated to greater emotional empathy, while reading non-fiction did not. In 2009, Mar re-confirmed his results, and went on to prove that the link between reading literature and “theory of mind” persisted even if you control for the possibility that empathetic people might choose to read more fiction.

While television has the power to entertain, it doesn’t share the same socialization benefits as reading a book. In fact, recent research suggests television may actually weaken our understanding of other people’s desires or beliefs.

For me, there have been many books that have shaped how I think about leadership. To name a few, they are: The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), Starship Troopers (Heinlein), The Defense of Hill 781 (McDonough), the Bible (God), and War As I Knew It (Patton). So tell me in the comment section what books have most impacted your personal or leadership development? It doesn’t have to be non-fiction, it can be anything–inquiring minds want to know!

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