Read like a Leader: Intentional Reading

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Are leaders really readers?

The Pew Research Center says that most Americans have a read at least one book, “in whole or in part” during the past year. That really doesn’t tell us much. The Pew study suggests that more educated and more affluent people read more than less educated and less affluent. That doesn’t tell us much either. What about leaders?

The Pew research doesn’t carve out leaders, but Iris, a firm who offers speed-reading courses, tried to fill the gap. Here’s what they found.

“It was hard to locate a formal study, but anecdotal evidence suggests that executives read 4–5 books per month, far outpacing the general population.”

What are leaders reading?

That makes sense to me, but the numbers don’t mean a lot unless you know what those CEOs are reading. Well, there’s good news on that front. In 2014, Inc. published a piece on the “CEO Bookshelf.” If you click through to it, you may find some choices that are surprising.

What wasn’t surprising, at least to me, was the range of what the twenty-two CEOs mentioned in the Inc. piece read. There’s business and science fiction, novels and investing, classics and newer books. It matches what I know about what the CEOs and other senior executives I know read.

In late 2016 there was a lot of coverage of Marine General James Mattis and his reading habits. That promoted a post of mine: “Read like the Warrior Monk.” It also started me thinking about how leaders read.

Intentional Reading

I noticed that the people I know and with whom I often discuss books approach their reading differently from most people. They are intentional about every aspect from deciding what to read to getting the most from their reading. That thinking led to my post, “Become an Intentional Reader,” which is about how I choose, read, and get value from my reading. But I’m only one person.

The same week that I wrote that post I had a conversation with my friend and client, Terry Moore that included discussion of what we were reading. I also read a post by Tanmay Vora about how he uses sketchnotes to get to the essence of things. I realized that while many of us are intentional readers, we go about our intentional reading in different ways.

I wanted to learn how other people got the most from their reading and I assumed that what I learned would be worth sharing. I reached out to several people I knew and asked if they would be willing to participate in a panel whose members would share their “secrets.” Mike Figliuolo, Stephen Lynch, Terry Moore, Art Petty, Tanmay Vora, and Kevin Eikenberry agreed. You can read their bios here.

My idea is that I’ll ask the panel questions about reading and then share what they say via blog posts. The first thing I asked was: “How do you choose what to read?” The next question is: “How do you get the most from the books you read?”