How Important Is Reading To Development and Leadership?

CoachStation: Reading Is Critical to Development - As Easy As ABC

In one of those coincidental yet surprisingly common situations, I have been engaged in several scenarios regarding the importance of reading in recent weeks.

As a keen reader, this stimulated thought regarding my current situation and what has led me to where I am today – do I believe there is a link?

I recently left permanent employment to focus my time and energy full-time on a consulting business I have been developing for the past two years. As with most small business owners, I am keen to succeed for my own reasons (making a difference, ego, challenging myself etc.) as much as external factors such as earning an income and supporting my family. I was keen to investigate how much I have learned through what I have read as opposed to what I have done.

How does reading assist in people development and is there a link to leadership capability?

What has led me to this point? It is certainly a timing factor, with opportunity, networks and experience all colliding this year. It has an encouragement element, with my wife and those whose views I value most being very supportive. The drive to change my situation and maximise my skills and opportunities suggest there is more to it than that though. Clearly skills and knowledge have some part to play in building experience and intuitively, experience derives from application of skills and knowledge also.

So, how do we develop skills and knowledge?

Through many resources, several already listed, but I want to concentrate on the importance of reading and its link to development and leadership. I agree with Frances Whiting who recently stated:

Out of all the gifts my parents gave to me, a love of reading has been the greatest

Reading is a passion my wife and I share and one that we are instilling in our three daughters. I am an advocate of reading! I am passionate that we should all read more! I know many people who read very little or nothing at all beyond the daily newspaper or similar.

When I reflect on my development, reading has been critical in providing avenues to challenge my thinking. It is my time. A safe and rewarding opportunity. I get to challenge myself with absolute frankness and honesty. My thoughts are between the words on the page and myself.

Interestingly, whilst researching this subject I found an outstanding blog on the same theme written by Mike Myatt. He shares some interesting (slightly disturbing!) statistics and clearly draws the link between reading and an individual’s ability to develop their leadership capability and knowledge.

All great leaders have one thing in common: They read voraciously. Did you know that the average American only reads one book a year? Worse than this is the fact that 60% of average Americans only get through the first chapter. Contrast this with the fact that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read an average of four to five books a month…Furthermore, studies show that active readers are likely to have annual incomes more than 5 times greater than those who spend little or no time reading.

Fascinating stuff, no matter what your motivations are. I am sure there are other useful readings available, however as with most learning, the key to making a difference through gained knowledge is to use the information to advantage in some way. The written word, in whatever form, provides the opportunity to expand thoughts and subsequently take action in a way that may not have existed in your mind until it was read.

Obviously, reading is not the only source of learning. However, I would argue that without a regular rhythm of seeking knowledge through the written word, each of us is limiting our capacity to learn and grow. I can see this change occurring every week in my children – I know that reading is playing its part. The evidence in those I have led and worked with is apparent. Those who read have a deeper level of knowledge. I also know it has been a game-changer for me!

I believe that an interest in reading starts early and is a life-long journey. Most people I know who are not keen readers as adults were also not prolific readers as children. The diagram below is interesting in many ways but particularly the high relevance that reading has on the stages of development from birth through to adulthood.

CoachStation: Stages of Reading Development

That does not mean that you cannot change your situation – the choices remain your own to make.

I may well be preaching (or writing) to the converted if you have read this far, as it probably indicates you are someone who is seeking development through reading by seeking out blogs such as this.

If this is the case, challenge yourself to challenge others:

How do you think you can influence someone in your life to develop themselves even further through the power of reading?

If you like, also let me know your thoughts and responses to the questions:

  • Do you believe reading has assisted in your development?
  • What sort of reading stimulates your thoughts i.e. books, articles, magazines etc?
  • Do you find there is a difference between reading a physical book as opposed to an eReader, such as Kindle?

…and most importantly, keep on reading to continue growing!