Importance of Reading as a Business Leader - book with coffee

Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, every day you put your best foot forward so you can come closer to realizing your career goals. You’ve identified the tasks you need to accomplish, scheduled meetings, and set time in the day to prepare all the needed reports. You may have forgotten an important item on the agenda.

Have you penciled in time for reading?

Decline In Reading Scores Traced To Less Time Spent On Reading

A study by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed that global literacy rates rose from 84% in 2014 to 86% in 2016.

However, a study conducted by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) showed that reading in America has been on a steady decline the past 40 years. In 1982, the NEA survey estimated that 56.9% of Americans read at least one work of literature within the year. Fast-forward to 2015, and the number has dropped to 43%.

The lack of literary appreciation may have significantly contributed to the decline in reading scores of Americans. A global test performed by the Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRL) in 2016 showed that the United States trailed countries such as Singapore, Russia, and Ireland in reading proficiency.

A big part of the reason why Americans are reading less is multimedia. People spend more time on the Internet than with a good book.

A report by Zenith Optimedia revealed that from 2010 to 2015, consumption of online content increased by 105% while printed publications like magazines and newspapers declined by -23% and -31% respectively.

Why Today’s Most Influential Leaders Take The Time To Read A Good Book

If consumption of online content increased by 105%, shouldn’t that translate to higher comprehension levels since it is still a form of reading?

The answer is “Yes”.

And “No”.

Yes, consuming online content improves our knowledge, stimulates cognition, and makes us more learned individuals. However, having information accessible with a tap of a key or a click of a mouse removes a number of powerful attributes that help develop strength of character:

Discipline. Dedication. Self-Motivation.

Reading printed content takes more effort. If the font style is too small, you do not have tools that can increase its size unless you have a magnifying glass. It takes you out of your comfort zone; the computer screen where you can read hands-free and control the viewing experience.

With a hardbound book, you need to hold it between your hands, physically turn the page, and understand its words, paragraphs, and overall content without the convenience of launching a search query.

It takes discipline to remove yourself from the ease and comfort of an online environment. You need to stay dedicated to a reading schedule. Finally, you should be self-motivated to learn and become a better, more knowledgeable person by maintaining a reading schedule.

This is why many of today’s most influential leaders take the time to read a good book.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates makes it a point to read at least 50 books every year. Gates proudly shares his story of bringing a “sack of 50 books” whenever he travels. He successfully got Facebook founder and fellow billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, to jump on the reading bandwagon. After a slow start, Zuckerberg has resolved to read a new book every two weeks which comes out to 23 to 25 per year.

Dallas Mavericks owner and investor Mark Cuban dedicates at least three hours every day to reading. Phil Knight, the owner of global superbrand Nike, claims to own a massive library whereby visitors are required to remove their shoes before they enter.

Billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett allocates 80% of his time reading paperbacks and other publications. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is a strong advocate of reading. She makes monthly recommendations of her favorite books at her popular “Book of the Month” club.

Former NBA coach Phil Jackson, who won multiple championships with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, was an avid reader. Jackson noticed that players often lost motivation during the second half of the basketball season. He would handpick books and give them to players whom he felt would identify and find inspiration in its content.

Former United President Barack Obama was known as a voracious reader of books. Obama claimed that during his eight years at the White House, he always found time to read books. For Obama, books were a rich source of ideas and inspiration.

If today’s leaders in business and politics can find time in their busy schedules to read books, why shouldn’t you?

5 Benefits Of Reading

Digital technology has given us e-books that we can read from any mobile device. You can find just about any trade paperback in e-book format right now such as Kindle. Reading remains a pleasurable experience in any format. However, reading a regular book is a different experience altogether.

There are certain smells that trigger emotions and memories. The smell of a newly opened book; of a large bookstore upon entry and of freshly- brewed coffee permeating the air. Those who experienced a day at Barnes and Noble before it was rendered extinct by Amazon, know the feeling of offline reading.

It is this type of experience that drew industry leaders such as Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett into starting a reading habit.

There are also other benefits that you can gain from reading. Benefits that will help you find success in your career and as a leader in your industry:

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1. Develops You Into A Better Thinker

A leader stays ahead of the pack. Therefore, you must always be updated with the latest information. Knowing trends and developments in your industry or area of interest will help you make educated decisions before anyone does.

Anne Cunningham who is an Associate Professor in Cognition and Development from the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a study which showed readers were excellent in analyzing information. This allowed frequent book readers to become better decision-makers than non-book readers.

What separates leaders from followers is that they are able to see opportunity while others see only failure.

The fear of risk is comfortably managed because they are able to use their knowledge to weigh costs versus benefits. Before they initiate plans into action, risk management procedures would already be in place.

2. Builds Your People-Skills

Book readers are often unfairly labeled as anti-social or introverts. People think all they do is read books and nothing else. As most leaders will attest, book reading will improve your people or social skills.

A story is a text representation of a world from the eyes and mind of its author. When you read books, you live vicariously through the author’s filter. You see his/her perspective and compare them to yours. It helps you understand and appreciate the opinions of others.

Thus, when you are dealing with your people, you communicate with them with an open mind. Instead of criticizing, you develop empathy. You allow them the opportunity to contribute and generate feedback. Meetings become more productive instead of a venue for argumentation and debate.

3. Stimulates Creativity

Reading stimulates creativity because it encourages your imagination to keep flowing. Words are processed and depicted in imagery in our minds. In some cases, we become challenged by the opinions expressed by the author. How many times have we questioned and criticized the works of an author, yet recommended the book for others to read?

Creativity is an integral component of leadership because it allows you to “think outside the box”. Creativity starts off with a series of questions; of how we can make things better. Sometimes the best solutions are not found in black and white. You might find them in the grayest of areas. Only those with a creative mind can filter out the smoke and find what others cannot see.

4. Strengthens Analytical Skills

Haven’t you experienced reading a sentence or a paragraph, then find yourself going back to try and articulate what you just read. Reading is a constant process of analysis. You are trying to decipher and understand the information provided by the author.

Studies have shown that reading regularly not only makes you smarter but also improves your abstract reasoning skills. It is a cycle that involves receiving and assimilating information.

In business, you frequently encounter situations that require precise decision-making. If you can break down information and process potential scenarios from various courses of action, you will be able to come up with the decision with the most favorable outcome.

5. Reduces Stress Levels And Improves Mental Health

Running a business or putting in the hours at work can be very stressful. The decision-making process itself takes you through several stages of stress; from problem identification to proposing courses of action to risk assessment then finally implementation. Stress can break your mind and body down. It will hamper your ability to lead if both your physical and mental health are compromised.

Reading is an escape. It takes you away from the world you are in and into one that is created by the author. It is a great way to relax and de-stress. Enhance the experience by finding your favorite nook and consume your book with a nice, warm mug of brewed coffee.

Conclusion: How To Build A Reading Habit

Did our article get you interested in starting a book-reading habit? It is not hard to get going once you commit to the idea of reading as a form of self-improvement. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Overcome Biases – Some people are hesitant to read because they believe it takes away productive time from work. As we have shown you, reading has many benefits. It can make you smarter, more knowledgeable, more creative, and a better analyst. Thus, wouldn’t that make reading a productive activity?
  2. Read A Variety Of Content – It is perfectly fine to start reading topics you are already familiar with. However, once in a while, pick out a topic that is completely new to you. This will make require greater focus and dedication. For Mark Zuckerberg, it was social studies. What topic would take you out of your comfort zone?  
  3. Read To Have Fun – Reading doesn’t have to be an intellectual exercise all the time. Read to relax and have fun. Pick up a book that makes you feel good.

What about you? How many books do you read per month and what are some of your favorite titles? Please feel free to share your reading experiences in the comments section below.

If you want to know how storytelling can be a powerful driver of your marketing content, give us a call or drop us an email. We would be happy to assist you in getting your content seen and read by a wider audience.

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