Leaders are Readers

Leaders are Readers

This is a phrase that is shared throughout various classrooms in schools, seminar spaces and lecture halls. I must say I have found this to be true at every interaction with any levels of leaders.

Most often, I find leaders not only reading one book, but often two books at a time.

Growing up, I loved to read. My mom couldn’t keep books out of my hands. If I wasn’t outside playing, I was reading. Then in second grade, something switched. I stopped reading. I don’t exactly know why, but I just didn’t enjoy reading.

This continued through high school, and even through college. I would do the absolute minimum to get by when it came to reading. Then I entered my master’s work and realized how far I had fallen behind. I knew I couldn’t just get by, but I would have to read. And so I did. That said, reading was laborious. It took me forever to read a book. Thankfully most subject matter in my program was interesting and so I worked through it.

As I started my final semester of Seminary, the professor assigned us a book; How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. I loved this guide to actually how to read. I was so mad that this was not given as required reading upon admission to the Seminary, and I was only encountering it in my final semester. The lessons learned in this book could have helped me save some time, energy and effort in working through the various levels of reading that were required.

Since that time, just over 20 years ago, I’ve significantly increased my ability to read. In fact, I would say, reading has become a normal part of my daily, weekly and annual rhythms. I love reading books and learning from authors from around the world who can help me gain insights from their experiences. This is crucial not only for leaders but in shaping the literacy trends of the young people we interact with in the work we do. The global literacy rate currently stands at 87 percent. This number indicates contrasts in the literacy inequalities between developed and developing economies. While these differences are apparent, the general interpretation is that, more people are reading today as compared to the 1800’s.

In light of this, I’ve created a course that I have taught the seniors at KICS called Global Leadership for the past six years. We look at various levels of leadership and focus in on what it means to be a global leader. For the last several years, lesson 1 of the course is entitled Leaders are Readers.

Here is a summary of how I help them learn, how to best attack reading non-fiction books, before deciding if they need to read the full book.

  • Title and descriptive sentence – this is the main thesis for the book.
  • Back cover, inside covers – this will give you a bit of a summary of what the book is about.
  • About the author page – this gives you insight into who the author is, what their experiences are and what qualifies them to write on said topic.
  • Table of Contents – this is the book outline. This can be really helpful to see if there is a chapter that’s of particular interest to you.

With all this in place, if you are still interested, then take the next steps.

  • Read the first paragraph and the last paragraph of the book. Sometimes this works cleanly, and other times it’s more like reading the first section and the last section of the book. This usually presents the strongest case for why the book was written and the strongest conclusion of most important lessons and takeaways learned by the author in this particular area.
  • Read the first paragraph and the last paragraph of each chapter. Much like above, this will typically give you a clear picture of this particular area and the authors insights.

At this point, you should have a strong grasp on what the book is about, it’s main ideas, and you should even be able to pull 3-5 key quotes from this book.

If you desire to dive in deeper, then read the first and last sentence of each paragraph next.

Finally, having done everything listed above, if you desire to learn even more, please enjoy reading the entire book.

Now, a few items to note:

1. This method is best suited for non-fiction books vs. fiction books and works of literature.

2. Some books and authors, by nature of their previous work have earned the right for you to read every word.

3. Some people enjoy reading all of a book. That’s perfectly okay. I don’t want to take away from that. The method I am sharing above helps those who have a lot to read, or need to read in a short amount of time.

There is more to learn as you read the full version of books. As a person who is in the middle of writing my first manuscript, I struggle at the thought of someone only reading part of what I’m writing. That said, I do think there is much understanding and learning that can be gained through employing this method of reading. I hope these insights can help you as you seek to read more and grow your knowledge base as a reader and leader.

Would love to know what you think and any methods of reading you employ.