It seems like every pundit with a platform is coming out with their personal summer reading list for business leaders. I’ve got a better idea.
This, year, why not skip those must-read business books for a couple of months and immerse yourself in the humanities? You’ll get better as a leader and take a break from all that business stuff.
If you really need to make the business case for the humanities, Dr. Rich Wellins of DDI provides it in his recent post. “What an MBA Program Won’t Teach You About Leadership.”
Dr. Wellins and his colleagues set out to answer the question: which degree did the best job of preparing leaders? Here’s the important part of their findings.
“Leaders with business degrees were strong in five of the eight leadership skills. But so too were those leaders with humanities degrees! What’s more, the leaders with the humanities degrees were stronger than those with business degrees in three of the skills: compelling communication, driving for results, and inspiring excellence.”
Here’s how I read the research findings. You’re more likely to have all the tools to be a better leader if you mix the skills you learn with a business degree and the ones you get from a humanities education. “Well,” what are those humanities?” I hear you cry. Here’s the answer from Stanford.
“The humanities can be described as the study of how people process and document the human experience. Since humans have been able, we have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world.”
With that definition out of the way, here are eight things you can do to become a better leader by immersing yourself in the humanities.
Take a course.
Visit a museum.
Go to a play or an opera.
If you’ve only read Shakespeare, you’ll find that Shakespeare on stage in different than the Bard on the page. His plays are different still on an Elizabethan stage. If you’re new to opera, try something by Puccini, performed in English.
Go to a concert.
Symphony orchestra concerts aren’t your only option. Most communities have chamber groups who give concerts in smaller, more intimate settings.
Visit a historic site.
No matter where you are in the US, there’s probably a historic site within driving distance. One of my favorites is Mystic Seaport. If you want to find historic sites of all kinds, follow this link to The History Place.
Read some history or biography.
Human nature hasn’t changed for thousands of years, so you can learn a lot from the way leaders of the past met the challenges of their day. If you’re looking for a good history book, I suggest Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. For biography, try Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin
Read their own words.
Read some fiction.
Yes, fiction. It’s not frivolous. There’s a solid business case for reading novels.
Those suggestions are just a start. If you’re feeling ambitious you can set up your own study program on the topic of your choice. Go for it. You won’t just become a better leader, you’ll enrich your life, too.