7 Reasons Leaders Are Readers

He never graduated from college, but he claimed to have read every book in his hometown public library. On April 12, 1945, this humble Missouri farm boy would later be sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States.

What did Harry Truman know about leadership we can learn from today?

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” — Harry S. Truman

Here are 7 reasons on why you need to read if you aspire to lead.

Empathy

“Do not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.”

Every book we read expands our understanding of other people, places, ideas and cultures. It gets us out of our own head and into someone else’s. Out of our own time and into the sights, sounds and struggles of another era.

Research even shows complex biological changes in the human brain when we read—days after we finish reading.

While we can’t personally experience the grandeur and ethos of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Erik Larson reveals it to us (and its hidden horrors) in “The Devil in the White City”.

Reading lets us walk that crucial mile in someone else’s shoes without ever leaving the house.

A Gift Unopened

The literacy rate is 99% in the U.S.

If you can read, you are very, very blessed. Millions of people can’t.

Choosing not to read is a gold gilded gift you’ve left untouched and unopened. That gift has the potential to enlighten your mind more than almost anything else in the world.

“Upon books the collective education of the race depends; they are the sole instruments of registering, perpetuating and transmitting thought.” — Harry Truman

We may never travel to Afghanistan, but Khaled Hosseini takes us there in “The Kite Runner”.

Dismissing the gift of reading is to insist on living a 2D life in a 3D world.

Perspective

It’s been said that a reader lives 1,000 lives—the non-reader only one.

Lonesome Dove helps us understand the dangers and hardships of an 1870s cattle drive and life in the Old West.

Moneyball shows us the commitment required to innovate and upend conventional wisdom in an industry permeated with groupthink.

War and Peace lets us relive the devastation of the Battle of Borodino and taste the sting of a lethal Russian winter in wartime.

If two people are stranded in the dark in a power outtage, but one of them has a flashlight, who has a better chance of finding a way out, a way to safety?

Books are our flashlight.

Stress Buster

Feeling overwhelmed?

Good news: You don’t need to visit a day spa or go full Willie Nelson to lower your stress.

Reading lowers stress better than taking a walk, sipping a cup of tea or listening to your favorite music.

Most of us won’t experience working in the high-stress, high stakes culinary world of a Mario Batali restaurant, but Bill Buford wryly revisits his adventure in “Heat”.

Speaking of stress…

Reading can help lower stress in a less obvious way than the act itself.

Humans need at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Yet, the average American only gets 6.7 hours of sleep. Establishing a consistent bed time routine helps us mentally prepare for a good night’s rest.

By adding reading to our sleep routine (real books only, no tablets or screens), we decrease our accumulated stress levels and create a pathway for consistent quality sleep.

Almost any P.D. James is worth a spot on your nightstand. Start with “Children of Men” (even if you’ve seen the movie) and move on to the Det. Adam Dalgliesh series.

Strategic Thinking

There’s a rhythm to reading that trains the mind.

Readers acquire the stamina and focus to process words and ideas over days, weeks and months. This skill extends to other areas like long-range planning and strategy.

“The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.” — Harry Truman

Every word, every page, every chapter is a building block. Over time, those blocks create rooms, those rooms become houses. The houses turn into a mansions and then bloom into entire estates.

Readers accumulate mansions on Boardwalk and Park Place.

Non-readers are left collecting rent from Baltic Avenue.

Want a primer in strategic thinking? Founding Brothers is well worth your time.

CrossFit For Your Brain

Dr. Natalie Phillips, assistant professor of English at Michigan State University, compared fMRI results from two study groups reading two different passages—deep reading and quicker, pleasure reading.

The deeper reading prompted more activity and blood flow to the regions of the brain known for executive function. However, even the pleasure reading showed an increase in blood flow to other parts of the brain.

Phillips proposes that different styles of reading may create patterns of brain growth and development that are “far more complex than just work and play.”

Reading is CrossFit for your brain, without the kettle bells and physical therapy appointments.

Are you a dog lover? Try Alexandra Horowitz’s “Inside of a Dog”. You’ll learn, you’ll smile and you’ll realize just what exactly is going on in your favorite pet’s mind.

Reading More in 2017

If you want to live a richer life, form deeper connections and begin future proofing your career, commit to reading more books in 2017. It’s a great way to start the new year.

However…if you’re firmly in the “I’m not a reader” camp, email me. I’ll wager I can find a book for you that will expand your horizons and, most importantly, one you’ll enjoy.

Try me: hello@strengthslauncher.com

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