“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry S Truman, 33rd US President
Giving your mind a break from the professional grind to fit in some recreational reading is an important practice to ensure you stay sharp. But, what should you be reading? Business news and thought leadership barrage us at a dizzying pace today, as the velocity of the internet seems to overwhelm us with information. Books, articles, and blogs demand our attention, and we as business leaders need to be thoughtful about what we allow to enter our brains.
I will occasionally review books lists, with titles such as “1000 Books to Read Before You Die” (how morbid), or “100 Books Every Business Owner Needs to Have on His/Her Shelf” (how much shelf space do you need?). Rather than stress over a must-read list of books, I have taken the advice of another US President. Theodore Roosevelt, in providing his views on reading, stated, “A book must be interesting to the particular reader at that particular time.”
With this in mind, I offer the following insights for business leaders to consider in establishing and cultivating reading habits.
In professions such as public accounting, law, and finance, keeping up with the latest regulations and guidance is imperative. Too many great professionals become stagnant and forget that professional literature continues to evolve. Having a steady source of news relevant to our specialties is vital to maintaining that professional edge.
One of the beauties of modern technology is the ability of anyone to write about anything and have it seen by a large quantity of people. However, the proliferation of blogs now means that many are talking and few are listening. Leaders should choose blogs sparingly, and restrict reading to those authors and thought leaders who have influenced our career development or are impacting the market in new and interesting ways.
News sites are great for getting information quickly, but we must be on the lookout for bias and spin. Keeping to a few trusted sites, and then moving on with the day, is usually the best approach.
Having a book handy at all times is key to personal development. Even taking a few short minutes to read a handful of pages can yield valuable results. Not only do I find business and leadership books useful, but even the appropriate fiction can help develop insights into human behavior. For instance, in accounting it is important to be vigilant for fraud and criminal activity. One of our professional standards requires us to brainstorm on each engagement as to how criminal activity could potentially occur, which means we need to think like a criminal. What better way to get into the minds of criminals than by diving into some well-written crime fiction or true crime non-fiction?
It is tempting to defer reading to the summer months when we can sit at the beach and catch up on the latest bestseller. While that has a place, reading must be continual, year-round, and lifelong. You will notice that I didn’t provide you with a list of “The Best Authors”, or “The Top 25 Books I Think You Need to Read.” That is because reading is a personal matter and must be something we do based on individual preferences, and what we enjoy. What works for one person may not work for another, but by all means we should find what does indeed motivate each of us.
If you would like insights into what some of your Clearview leaders are reading, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.