Read to lead.

From HBR Blog Network: For Those Who Want to Lead, Read.  (DK: I believe all of this to be true.)

reading“…For the first time in American history, “less than half of the U.S. adult American population is reading literature.”

“…This is terrible for leadership, where trends are even more pronounced. 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.”

“…And history is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers and writers (remember, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace), but with business leaders who believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.”

“…Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight…reading makes you smarter through “a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills.” Reading…is one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information.”

“…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 — traits that are persuasively linked to increased organizational effectiveness, and to pay raises and promotions for the leaders who possessed these qualities.”

“…For stressed executives, reading is the best way to relax, as reading for six minutes can reduce stress by 68% and…may even fend off Alzheimer’s, extending the longevity of the mind.”

Find tips on how to get started and the full article at: HBR Blog Network: For Those Who Want to Lead, Read


  1. Thank you for sharing, David. I believe this is so true.


  2. I, too, believe this with all my heart. The most skilled, articulate, insightful people I know are also the ones who are the most well-read. It’s invaluable to see the world through a variety of lens, that’s my takeaway. And my favorite kind of book is one that I have to read with a dictionary close at hand–feels yummy to be stretched mentally…. :-). Thx for keeping the inspiration rolling, David–you never disappoint. 🙂


    • I’m with you on the former (most insightful people are well read). As to the dictionary close-at-hand, this discipline certainly accounts for the depth of your vocabulary mastery. I have a marathon to run here… 🙂


  3. A couple of years ago I set myself a goal to read 25 business books. I achieved it, much to my surprise. Funny how just putting a number on it helped raise my level of effort. It gave me a big injection of new material into my training content. It helped also to share that goal with a colleague, and it became a mini competition (also shared the costs of the books, as we swapped them with each other after we’d read them, and forced our own selection on each other – made it a bit unpredictable and fun.)

    Maybe I should do the same again. Thanks for the nudge.

    I’m reading this, by the way, as I take a break from writing a chapter of a book. I’m sure writing might be an equally good activity for developing a leader.


    • Hi Michael. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am a glutton for business, leadership, management and self-help books. (Count: Hundreds.) I think I have reached the saturation point and much of the new writing is re-treaded. I do think that writing is a good activity to push the mind into new territory. I’m working this but it is slow going. I look forward to reading your book.


  4. For that matter one needs to choose The Right books. Its very well said, “Avoid Bad food and Bad books.”


  5. Totally agree…People who read business books earn more money – a lot more! — even itough economic times.  According to a number of studies, business people who read at least seven business books a year earn over 2.3 times more than those who read only one per year. Harvey Macay


  6. Many North Americans don’t read, but in a lot of other countries it’s even worse. When traveling in third world countries, and even in places like rural Greece and Spain, it’s rare to see a book. Just try to find a bookstore. Anyway, I’m happy to see the lady in the photo reading. I multi-task like that all the time, when I do my one-handed handstands. Why waste precious time? Might as well read a book.


  7. I’m a big believer in reading – and agree with the comments above. Ideally the books that leaders choose are the right books. I have been hesitating posting my thoughts about leadership these days, because I fear it will be a bit cynical. That said, learning from those who have exhibited characteristics emblematic of outstanding leadership seems to be a pretty good way to go…The how-to books I question, even though I’m a consultant that does that kind of thing….


    • Been down the path of how-to books. Hundreds. I’m with you. You referenced your leadership thoughts (and cynicism) on several occasions. You’ve peaked my interest and curiosity. I look forward to reading about it in an upcoming post. 🙂


  8. Reblogged this on Switched On.


  9. Hey – stop posting my photo without my permission! 😉


  10. I just read this post yesterday, and find it to be so sad (yet very believable). Readers are learners. I also recently read a psychology article on charisma, and guess what the most effective presidents did in their free time? That’s right – JFK and Roosevelt were avid readers, and beyond the necessary, they both loved poetry and literature. The well-round, broad scope reading is definitely a positive thing, regardless of how you choose to predict or define that success.


  11. Thank you for posting this David, it is sad when there are so many great books to read, the real problem for the other 50% is that we don’t feel that we have enough time and want to read more 🙂


  12. This was interesting… Thank you, dear David, have a nice weekend, love, nia


  13. I don’t know who said it, but the opening sentence of my Web site states: “Reading is to the mind as exercise is to the body.” I absolutely LOVE to read (and write)!!


  14. First, great photo. Second, I coincidentally just finished a short story by John D. MacDonald written for the Library of Congress Foundation entitled “Reading for Survival” Told through his famous characters Meyer (the German economist) and Travis McGee, its a discussion on why reading is vital to modern man. As a former resident of S Florida, if you don’t know John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee, go spend $1 on a used paperback. MacDonald, in addition to being in the OSS during WWII and a Harvard MBA, quit the corporate world and moved to Mexico with his wife so he could afford to live off his meager writer’s pay until he found an audience. Carl Hiassen, Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut credit him with being a major influence.



  1. […] by 68% and…may even fend off Alzheimer’s, extending the longevity of the mind.” Post By David Kanigan  Inspired Blog Post: […]


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