Good Leaders Start as Good Readers

Good business leaders should read good books.

John Coleman of the Harvard Business Review makes the case that businesspeople can benefit themselves and their companies by reading widely and deeply.

Coleman points to several disheartening trends in the country’s reading habits. The National Endowment for the Arts found that American adults are reading less, and fewer than half of them can be bothered to read literature (defined as any sort of imaginative text).

Coleman then notes the many positive benefits of reading—such as added vocabulary and knowledge, reduced stress and correlations between reading and social empathy—which could translate into better performance for businesspeople.

He also holds up several business leaders who have benefited by reading. As Coleman writes:

Business people seem to be reading less — particularly material unrelated to business. But deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.

Note how many business titans are or have been avid readers. According to The New York Times, Steve Jobs had an “inexhaustible interest” in William Blake; Nike founder Phil Knight so reveres his library that in it you have to take off your shoes and bow; and Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman called poets “the original systems thinkers,” quoting freely from Shakespeare and Tennyson. 

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