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Leadership Thought #251 – All Leaders Should Aspire To Be Well Read And Informed

As I’ve stated in previous blogs, I am strong believer that a leader’s role especially in fast growing or relatively large organizations is to think.   And, to think effectively you need to be well read.  You need to have broad understanding of many things including behavioral psychology and general business management issues.  It’s also important to be well informed of market realities including local, regional, national or international trends that affect your business.   Moreover, as a leader you should leverage the experience and knowledge of past leadership figures and become a student of leadership behavior. 

To lead effectively requires hard work and study.  Very few people can just show up and make it happen.  You may be able to rely on your gut and work ethic for a period of time, but at some point this will no longer be sufficient. The opportunities and challenges confronting the organization will be greater and more complex than your own personal experience and capability to solve them.  The stakes will get higher and so will the risk.  The answers won’t always come easily and sometimes it will feel like you are out of your depth.

I encourage my clients and colleagues to spend at least 1 hour a day getting smarter about their business and their role.  This can be a struggle because we live in a society that values action over everything else.   Thinking and reflecting aren’t always tangible activities. Reading about the leadership styles of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, or Winston Churchill can seem like a luxury in a very busy and hectic schedule.  Learning what Jack Welch did at General Electric or Sam Walton with Wal Mart or Herb Kelleher with Southwest Airlines sometimes filters in, but in drips and drabs or incomplete summaries.   Understanding the important work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung doesn’t even make the radar screen.  Industry journals and newspapers stack up in our office as we get distracted by other things. 

The options for learning and growth are limitless which can make it seem overwhelming.  However, rather than avoiding the challenge altogether, take small steps.   Subscribe to an industry journal and actually read through it once a month.  Review the front page of the Wall Street journal every day.  Buy a biography of a historical leadership figure that intrigues you and read it for 15-20 minutes before you go to bed each night or listen to it as digital audio book while you drive around in your car.   As you get more comfortable with this learning dynamic, add a subscription to the Harvard Business Review and leaf through it on the weekends with your morning coffee/tea.  Visit the library and take out a DVD explaining the basics of human behavior and psychology.   All this sounds like a lot of work, but the time spent is actually marginal in the wide scheme of things and the potential benefits will be huge in the long run. All leaders should aspire to be well read and informed.


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