When I was a kid I sold books door to door and was more excited about the library than a candy store. It wasn’t leadership skills I was after, but the desire to have my name on that frog poster at the front of the classroom. As an adult I still read daily, have written a book or two, and could spend hours in a bookstore, lost in my pursuit of personal and professional leadership improvement. The frog poster has gone away but my own library remains the same, packed with knowledge from decades of reads that have changed the way I think and lead. As we embark on a new year and reevaluate those goals, consider adding reading to the list of ways you’ll improve those leadership skills that matter most. Here why it’s still a powerful idea.
You Don’t Have That Much Time
Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, his book about stand out performers, mentions that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to master a skill. If you’ve passed the age of 30, skill mastery of one hour per day, one day a week would take approximately 192 years. One hour, one day a week seems reasonable for most leader’s schedules, until you do the math for mastery of a new skill. Even at 2 hours per day, five days a week, (a time frame most leaders can’t imagine!), mastery would take 19.2 years. You don’t have that much time! Reading shortens the learning curve. One hour of reading per day could provide you with short cuts, insights, tricks of the trade, and easier ways that those who recorded their thoughts invested years in the making. For example, my first book Contagious Leadership is a collection of ten steps for managers to transition into more effective leadership, born out of the ten years I spent messing it up!
Wisdom Includes Experience
My Dad has always said “Experience is what you gain from your own actions. Wisdom is what you gain from the experience of others.” You need both, but experience includes messing up, making mistakes, and physically participating in actions that will provide valuable feedback. Wisdom in action provides results. When I wanted to know how to mentally increase my energy and vitality, I read Louise Hay. When I wanted to know how to align my thoughts with my desires, I read Wayne Dyer. When I wanted to know how to employ Emotional Intelligence, I read Daniel Goleman’s works. When I wanted to know how to improve my relationships, I read Gary Chapman Five Love Languages. When I wanted leaders to understand how to deal with difficult employees without losing their mind or their job, because I’d been there, I wrote Make Difficult People Disappear. You can experience all that life and work has to offer and learn as you go or find a good book of wisdom and start highlighting, underlining and notating what you need to do and know.
There is More Than One Way
Your boss may give you great advice on how to communicate. Your senior manager may not agree with that manager’s methods. You may have gotten wise counsel from your parents or big brother on how to handle conflict, but it may not work with your senior leader’s sport based analogies. There is always more than one way to do just about anything and leadership is no exception. If you’re wanting a more inspirational approach with a sports oriented theme, here is listing of motivational skill guides from the leader of the Buckeyes to Belichick. If you wish to have a more technical step by step approach based on your more linear minded thought process, there are many guides that walk you through a more process oriented leadership approach. If you prefer to have a more specific focus on one or more aspects of leadership, the lists of books on Communication, Delegation, Motivation, Engagement, Recognition and Empowerment are lengthy. Reading one book in any category or on any subject is like talking to one person at a time about their view point and their way of going about leading. There is always more than one way and books allow you to learn from multiple sources quickly and efficiently without having to tell someone “I’ve heard enough and walking away”. Hehe!
Not everyone likes to read for forty minutes a day as I do and frankly, not everyone even reads in the same way. For the sake of this Monday Moment, please know reading can mean an audio book, a newspaper article, a physical book or some e-reader device. All of them provide you an open door to more information that can be put to good use. In fact, it may open your eyes to even more professional and personal development than the open door or open door policy you’ve been given at work. Even when I sold books door to door at the age of 10, an open door usually meant some kind of sales success. What will you do with the open doors that books and reading provide for you and you’re style of leading?