Do all leaders really have to be readers?

There is a famous phrase that says “Leaders are readers.” I can’t verify if this has been consistently true throughout history, but on a personal level, I do know this for sure: reading helps me learn better, and learning helps me lead better.

Personally, I prefer reading books. I can go on and on about books, and those of you who have followed this blog long enough know this to be true. I always love giving books to people when my resources allow me to do so, but what I’ve learned throughout the years is that not everyone likes to read books.

“I tried,” says a friend, “but I really can’t sit still and read.” And that explains why I’ve seen some of the books I’ve given to people gathering dust on their bookshelves.

So what’s a non-reader to do? Do all leaders really have to be readers?

My answer is no. At least not everyone has to be a consistent book reader. Here are my 5 tips on how to learn and grow as a leader if you’re not into being a reader:

1) Opt for audiobooks. Do you feel left out when your friends talk about a book? More often than not, that book has an audio version. You can listen to it while you’re exercising, running errands, or while you’re stuck in transit. Yes, there are better things to do other than daydreaming!

2) Subscribe to podcasts or iTunes U. Podcasts are great options for those who want variety and don’t want to spend a single cent. You can find podcasts about everything under the sun, and just like audiobooks, you can enjoy them while you’re occupied with other tasks. Not a lot of people take advantage of iTunes U, but if you find it in your iTunes Music Store, do take the time to look around. There are some wonderful talks and lectures to be found if you spend some time digging. Podcasts and iTunes U tracks are all available for free.

3) Stick with the short stuff. Some people think they can never be readers because they can’t sit still long enough to read a whole book on just one topic. But nowadays, you can opt for lighter reading fare. Read blogs! You can read about a variety of stuff, and some blogs come with videos and pictures that will cater to your other learning needs.

4) Make listening appointments. Maybe you don’t like reading, but you have friends who devour books like potato chips. Chances are, they would love to talk about the books they just read, so I suggest asking them to fill you in on what they’ve learned. All you need is some time, a couple of focused ears, and an open mind. Paper and pen: optional.

5) Keep things bite-sized. As much as you try to avoid it, there may come a time when you’ll come across a book that you know you really want/need to read. Take the Bible, for instance. Reading the Bible is different from just hearing the Bible. When I read the Bible, I find myself having to read through a passage over and over to really ‘chew’ on it and let it sink in. If I were just listening to it, it would be too much trouble to keep having to go back to hear the same thing over and over again. Plus you can’t highlight an mp3! In cases like this, here’s my tip: just chop it up. When I started reading the Bible, I committed to reading one chapter a day. Nowadays, I’ve found that my time in the Word has been even deeper and richer when I just stick to reading 3 to 5 verses at a time and really taking the time to think them over. I’d like to think that reading 3 to 5 sentences a day is manageable for everybody. So whether you’re taking on the Bible or a book on business, you can do it! :)

One of my favorite definitions of success is from author and leadership expert John Maxwell. One portion of his definition says that success means “growing to your maximum potential.” If you look closely, that’s different from “maximizing your potential.” We can’t maximize our potential every day of our lives unless we plan on burning out quickly, but growth is something that can happen daily. Besides, we don’t even know what our “maximum potential” really is. The best we can do is to keep growing–and to keep growing, it’s always good to keep learning.

What are other ways that you learn? How do you make learning fun?

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If you liked this, you might be interested in these related posts:

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14 responses to “Do all leaders really have to be readers?

  1. thanks for this liz. great thoughts

  2. i love the book that you gave me on parenting! very practical! thanks again!

  3. Im not a reader and maybe following your blog is a good starting point for me. This is rich stuff Liz.

  4. thanks for these tips, very practical! i always get bored on reading thick books, so reading shorter articles like your blogs is a lot better, quicker learning plus more variety of topics.thanks liz

    • thanks Lawrence! I don’t know if you’ve come across the blogs of Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, and Brad Lomenick (you can check the links I placed on the right side of this page). Great for marketers and leaders like you!

  5. Nice blog coach Liz! I love it,
    I enjoy reading books too and it makes me feel kinda weird to know a person who doesn’t enjoy reading books. But through time, I have learned that not all people are the same. I thank God that He gave me a passion for reading. I’m also a fan of John Maxwell, I admire his wisdom and how he selflessly shares it to people.
    btw, I remember a quote while reading your blog:

    “The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after.”
    -Newton D. Baker

    ;-D Have a blessed day Coach Liz!!!

  6. Great read! Love reading books. When I became a leader in church, I was encouraged by my mentor to read blogs. Now it’s part of my daily routine and I’m learning a lot. :D And so I agree with this “reading helps me learn better, and learning helps me lead better.” :D

    • Thanks Fiona Mae! I love reading blogs too…there are so many out there, sometimes it gets overwhelming, haha! But they helped me love learning, for sure! :)

  7. this post is for me. i always struggle in books. i have quite a lot at home because its good aesthetics. hehe. am more of a visual and sometimes audio learner. so believe it or not dvds, seminars and meeting people are ways of me learning more. :)

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