Leadership in a word: Reading

Read to refill the wells of inspiration. - Harold Ockenga


Reading is imperative for every good leader. It’s how you learn, it’s how you grow. In short, it makes you a more rounded and better leader. So why aren’t more adults reading?

Marissa Levin, writing in Inc. reports that “Americans read fewer and fewer books each year.” She cites a survey by the National Endowment of the Arts which said only 43 percent of adults read any type of literature not required for work or school - a percentage that is a three-decade low.

What about you? What are your reading habits? In her article, Levin revealed the reading habits of the likes of Warren Buffet - 500 pages a day, Mark Cuban - three hours a day, and Bill Gates - 50 books a year. These are impressive numbers.

I realize that there are those who advocate for reading as many books as you can throughout the course of a year. It’s an admirable goal. And I must confess, I am a helpless book junkie and an avid reader. But in recent years, I have become more selective as a reader. My goal is not so much about the quantity of the books I read, but the quality. I choose to be more intentional about the return on my investment in the books I select. (You can find my books on Amazon).

Some years ago, I came across these reading strategies by J. Oswald Sanders for making your reading worthwhile and profitable. I’d like to pass his advice on to you.

● What you intend to quickly forget, spend little time reading. The habit of reading and forgetting only builds the habit of forgetting other important matters.

● Use the same discrimination in choosing books as in choosing friends.

● Read with pencil and notebook in hand. Unless your memory is unusually retentive, much gained from reading is lost in a day. Develop a system of note-taking. It will greatly help the memory.

● Have a “commonplace book,” as they are called - a book to record what is striking, interesting, and worthy of second thought. In that way, you will build a treasure trove of material for future use.

● Verify historical scientific and other data.

● Pass no word until its meaning is known. Keep a dictionary at hand.

● Vary your reading to keep your mind out of a rut. Variety is as refreshing to the mind as it is to the body.

● Correlate your reading - history with poetry, biography with a historical novel. For example, when reading the history of the American Civil War, take up a biography of Lincoln or Grant and poetry by Whitman.

Thanks to technology, our access to books is greater than ever. But when only 43 percent of adults are reading anything beyond what is required for work or school the challenge is as great as ever. Leaders must be ahead of the curve in order to succeed.


“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book too long enough to suit me.” - C.S. Lewis

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you will go.” - Dr. Seuss

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” - Oscar Wilde

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” - Francis Bacon

“I cannot live without books.” - Thomas Jefferson


As a leader, develop a routine for reading. Take the advice of Sanders and add some variety to your collection. The depth of your knowledge and your growth as a leader is the byproduct of the books you read.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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