Want to lead? Read.

Want to lead? Read.

I do not know if there is a magic number for the books and articles you should read each year or if people who read more are liked more. Or if they get more done.

There is probably a lot I do not know about reading.

But I know one thing – people who read a lot are exposed to more ideas and concepts. That exposure helps them hold some of their own notions with less of a grip. They have been exposed, after all, to a lot of other ideas.

A college mentor introduced me to the idea of blind spots – similar to the challenges cars have with their rearview mirrors. People have internally held beliefs that may not help them. They may have blind spots in their beliefs and opinions.

And you know what helps them? Reading. Exposure.

Leaders read.

Today I was reading a research study and the results from it were really helpful. But it was not just the study’s results that were helpful. The study itself gave me a lot of ideas.

And it opened my mind to new ways to think about doing this kind of research that will help me at work. All because I read this article.

If you’re not reading 15-30 minutes a day, I highly recommend it. If you read an hour a day, only on weekdays, at an average of 300 words per minute, you could read 46 books a year (of roughly 100,000 words, which is a reasonable estimate). That’s not bad.

The leadership benefits of reading are wide-ranging. Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight. Some studies have shown, for example, that reading makes you smarter through “a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills.” Reading — whether Wikipedia or Aristotle — is one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information.

Many business people claim that reading across fields is good for creativity. And leaders who can sample insights in other fields, such as sociology, the physical sciences, economics, or psychology, and apply them to their organizations are more likely to innovate and prosper.

Reading can also make you more effective in leading others. Reading increases verbal intelligence, making a leader a more adept and articulate communicator. Reading novels can improve empathy and understanding of social cues, allowing a leader to better work with and understand others. These traits are linked to increased organizational effectiveness. Any business person understands that heightened emotional intelligence will improve their leadership and management ability.

Finally, active literary life can make you more personally effective by keeping you relaxed and improving your health. For stressed executives, reading is the best way to relax, as reading for six minutes can reduce stress by 68%, and some studies suggest reading may even fend off Alzheimer’s, extending the longevity of the mind.

Reading more can lead to many benefits for business people of all stripes, and broad, deep reading can make you a better leader.

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