It’s often said that leaders are readers, and it’s true!
Reading is a great opportunity to support your leadership growth. It gives you knowledge and an understanding of the latest research, offers insights and different perspectives to stretch and challenge you, opens us new conversations and can even inspire you to take action.
So if you don’t read regularly, or if you would like to develop the habit of reading more, time to read on!
Why it is vitally important that you read more!
Reading is not only important for you personally, it could also have great significance for society in general! It’s been widely recognised recently that we have an attention crisis. People are finding it harder than ever to focus. A lack of sleep, increased distractions, and technology are all culprits in challenging our generation to focus.
Johann Hari dedicates a chapter in his well-researched book, Stolen Focus* called ‘the collapse of sustained reading’. In this chapter, he notes that Gallup, the opinion poll company, found that the proportion of Americans who never read a book in a given year TRIPLED between 1978 and 2014. Not one book!
According to the inaugural Australian National Reading Survey in 2021, 75% of the general Australian population indicated they read or listen to at least one book (in any format) once a year, with 28% of those known as passionate readers who read on average 1 – 2 books a month.
So let’s unpack how we can become one of these passionate readers and up our reading game.
Set a goal to read more books
There are lots of options for what to read – blogs, newspaper articles or books. I’m going to encourage you to read more books. For the most part, books are well-researched, they have been thought through, debated, constructed, and edited. A lot of time goes into creating a great book. A book is like a fireside chat with an expert who is giving you their very best insights on a topic. Not to say there isn’t value in other reading materials – they definitely have their place too, but here we are focused on reading more books!
Let’s start with a reading goal! Think about what’s realistic for you with the time you have available. Remember, you just have to strive for progress rather than perfection.
Break it down by doing the numbers. It often takes 6 – 8 hours to read a book. So let’s say you dedicate 4 hours per week to reading, you could read one nonfiction and one fiction novel a month! That’s 24 books a year!
Make it a habit
So let’s say you’re going to aim for 4 hours a week, let’s find the time to dedicate to reading and make it a habit.
Firstly, I want you to check your phone for a moment. If you’re on an iPhone, head to settings, then to screen time. Check out how much time you spend on your phone. Click See All Activity and you can see what you spend your time on your phone doing! Email, social media or games, they can all draw you in.
Research shows that people on average check their phones around 85 times a day. That’s up to 5 to 6 hours a day or 46 hours a week! That’s a lot of time and energy!
An easy win can often be replacing one habit with another. When do you pick up your phone? First thing in the morning, on the way to work, at lunchtime, standing in line at the supermarket, before bed? These are the times you could dedicate to something meaningful and important to you – like reading! Remember, we just need 4 hours a week to reach our reading goal!
Seriously though, think about a 15 – 30 minute pocket that you could dedicate to reading. It could look like this….I’m going to spend 25 minutes during or after lunch each day reading a nonfiction book, and then I’m going to find at least 4 nights a week where I will read for 30 minutes before bedtime (according to the Reading Survey, 52% usually find time to read right before bed).
Find what works for you. Perhaps, you can take advantage of times during the day like on your lunch break or public transportation rides when it might be easier to pick up where you left off without being interrupted by other tasks at home or work. Some people listen to books while going for a walk or run.
For me, I prefer to read non-fiction either early in the morning or throughout the day. I like to dedicate larger clunks of my time to this, say an hour at a time. I like to highlight my books and take notes or mind maps while I’m reading. Then I leave fiction novels until bedtime or on the weekend. This way I have the added benefit of staying off screens before bedtime too!
Have a play and see what works for you!
Now, what to read!
As a leader, consider what intrigues or interests you at the moment and create your own learning curriculum. What do you want to learn more about? Is it improving relationships with your team, having courageous conversations, improving your emotional intelligence or becoming a better speaker? What do you want to learn more about over the next 6 – 12 months?
One thing to keep in mind is the diversity of books and authors that you read. Think about authors who might stretch and challenge your assumptions and perspectives.
Looking for book suggestions? You could search bestsellers or new release blog posts on a particular topic, join a book club like Birds of Feather or Blackfulla Book Club or an online learning program like Greater Good Collective for reading inspiration! When you have 12 books that you can read in a year, you want to make the most of it!
While we are talking about limited time, let’s talk about abandoning a book. If the book, fiction or non-fiction is not doing it for you, I say abandon ship! Life is too short to struggle through a book that’s not adding value! For non-fiction reads, I am definitely not a cover-to-cover reader either. I scour the content page, look for what interests me the most and head there. I can be known for reading the last chapter first too! This might not be your style, and I encourage you to find your own style too.
One last thing – you might want to renew your membership to the library too. Most libraries have easy ways to reserve titles for you so you can easily head into the library and pick up the book you want. Otherwise, support a local bookstore, there is nothing better than browsing in a real bookstore, so support them by buying a book!
Talk about what you’re reading
A great way to process what you’re reading is to share what you’re learning with others, whether it is friends, family members or work colleagues etc sharing what you’re learning and reading is highly motivating. Look out for author talks at Writer Festivals or book signings to hear more from the authors.
Find a journal or create an online document to track your progress too so that you can refer back on it when reviewing how far you’ve come too! You could note what book your read and note what you found interesting about the book.
Becoming a reader leader!
Becoming an avid reader doesn’t happen overnight but with practice and dedication —anyone can become one!
Understanding why reading is beneficial, setting realistic goals, finding time to dedicate to reading, choosing books based on your curiosity and interests, joining discussion groups or clubs dedicated to learning, and finally engaging others through conversations about what we are currently reading —these are all steps that help you become a voracious reader leader today!
*Disclosure: We love to promote great resources to support your personal leadership development. This post contains affiliate links which means if you decide to use the links and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
How to Lead for a Better World
Do you feel overwhelmed with the challenges that our world is facing? In this webinar we explore how leadership is changing and what leadership mindsets and skill sets matter the most. We show you how you can find your voice and be confident to step up in your leadership to contribute to positive change.