#244: Why “Leaders Must Be Readers” is Wrong

Harry S. Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Was Harry right, or is his statement yet another political platitude meant to tickle the ears? Well, I think he was at least partially right.

Leaders Readers

Not All Readers Are Leaders

Reading by itself doesn’t make you a leader. If it did, college students would all be leaders, and recruiters would be looking for leaders among subscribers of romance novels. No, reading by itself won’t make you into a leader.

All Leaders Are Readers

Is Harry saying there hasn’t been a leader from the dawn of time that wasn’t a reader? Probably not. The earliest known texts didn’t come on the scene until 2600 BC. So, before that, there was nothing for anyone to read!

Let’s give Harry the benefit of the doubt and assume he is referring to modern times. There are numerous native tribes around the world today who still don’t have a written language, yet they have leaders.

Apparently, there is no causal relationship between leading and reading. All leaders are not readers.

But, can reading make you a better leader? Now, I suspect, this is what Harry was really trying to get at!

Are Readers Better Leaders?

I suspect the answer to the question, “Are readers better leaders?” is, “yes.” But, not just because they read. No, the answer to why readers are better leaders lies in what they read!

Better leaders are purpose driven readers. Their reading selections are intentional. They read with the intent to improve their ability to lead.

Author Michael Hyatt wrote Five Ways Reading Makes You a Better Leader (you can read his article here). In this article Hyatt says:

  • Reading makes us better thinkers. Studies show reading helps increase our analytical skills.
  • Reading improves our people skills. Studies show understanding others through their stories helps increase our EQ (Emotional Quotient).
  • Reading helps us master communication. It helps us improve our language skills.
  • Reading helps us relax. It helps us reduce stress.
  • Reading keeps us young. It helps us stay sharp mentally.

John Coleman, writing for the Harvard Business Review (For Those Who Want to Lead, Read), noted there is a sharp decline in reading among leaders despite the many benefits for leaders who read. Coleman notes:

  • Reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight.
  • Reading increases verbal intelligence, making a leader a more adept and articulate communicator.
  • Reading can improve empathy and understanding of social cues, allowing a leader to better work with and understand others.
  • Reading can make you more personally effective by keeping you relaxed and improving health.

Reading has a lot of tangible benefits for a leader, but to leverage the time we spend reading we need to be purposeful about our reading choices.

Becoming a Purpose Driven Reader

Time is limited. To maximize the benefit of time spent reading we need to be intentional and purposeful about our reading choices.

Here are six tips to make your reading time both intentional and purposeful:

  1. Establish the reading habit. Set aside a specific block of time to read, and put it on our calendar like any other appointment or commitment. For some folks this is early morning, for others, it’s their lunch hour. Still others find the evenings a perfect time to dive into a book.
  2. Read a variety of genres. If you are a business person step out and try reading a biography, a history book, or go crazy and read some Shakespeare! Be intentional about your selections.
  3. Apply what you read. Whether the book is specific to your industry or not, look for ways to apply what you are reading to your work. Get out your sticky notes and your highlighter. Make notes in the margins if you want, but take action on key points you discover as you read.
  4. Read with others. This might be something as formal as a book club or just a friend who agrees to read along with you. The benefit comes from the accountability and the discussions you’ll have about what you’re reading.
  5. Share the fun. If leaders grow by being intentional, purposeful readers then share the fun with co-workers. It’s a great way to build the depth of your organization.
  6. Relax and enjoy. Have some fun. Relax. Yes, be intentional and purposeful, but don’t forget to have some fun along the way!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Are you a reading leader? What have you read recently that inspired you in some way?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Personal Development | Self-Discipline

#171: Me and My Extraordinarily Big Mouth!

I am pretty sure Solomon had me in mind when he said, A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Proverbs 18:7).

Big, Mouth, Speech

Early in my management career, but far enough into it that I should have known better, I made a huge mistake because I failed to keep my mouth shut!

I discovered a younger manager was mishandling company funds. I mentioned my concerns and the need to terminate the younger manager to a peer, ostensibly for his advice in handling the situation.

That evening my peer mentioned the situation to a peer of his who was a good friend of the younger manager about to get fired. The younger manager called my boss, irate that people were discussing his termination. All this transpired over a period of just three hours.

Needless to say, the next morning I endured a rather unpleasant meeting with my boss, who informed me of the potential issues caused by my breach of confidence.

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

I had no business discussing this employee’s situation with anyone outside HR or my boss, but I just couldn’t keep my extraordinarily big mouth shut.

That situation occurred over 30 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday!

What is it that makes it so hard to control what we say?

James, the half-brother of Jesus, said any man who can control what he says is a perfect man (James 3:2). He uses three illustrations to make his point about how influential the small tongue can be (James 3:3-6):

  • He compares the tongue to a bit placed in a horse’s mouth. A small bit placed in a horse’s mouth is used to control the direction of the entire animal.
  • He likens the tongue to a rudder on a ship. The rudder is small but it directs the course of even the largest of ships. Similarly, the tongue is small but directs the whole man.
  • He also says the tongue is like a spark that sets a whole forest on fire. It corrupts the whole person and sets his life on fire.

Any questions? The tongue, yours and mine, are out of control. What can we do?

  • Recognize our speech can get us into trouble. King David exhorted the people to, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (Proverbs 34:13).
  • Focus on Godly speech. Paul writing to the Colossians instructed them to, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
  • Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul, this time writing to the Galatians said, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
  • Pray for the Lord to guide your speech. King David prayed to the Lord, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” Proverbs 19:14).

If we recognize that our speech can get us into trouble and that we have difficulty saying the right thing at the right time, then we know we need to shift our focus to Godly speech. But we will never be successful on our own. We must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to direct us, and pray for the Lord to guide us!

Do these four things and you won’t be the person Solomon referred to when he said, “A fool’s mouth will be his undoing!”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble by something you said? What tips will you share that help you control what you say?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Personal Development | Self-Discipline





#132: Roadblocks—12 Impediments to Success

Plus Bonus Whitepaper

Have you ever noticed that some people are successful at nearly everything they put their hand to? Have you ever noticed that some people fail over and over?


I know a couple of people who have a “gold thumb” for business. They are exceptionally bright, well-reasoned people. But most of the successful people I know are plodders. They work and fail, work and fail, but eventually they find success.

Whether you have a “gold thumb” or you are a plodder, if you are an achiever chances are that you plan, prepare, and implement well. When you fail chances are it is because of one of the twelve roadblocks listed below. Knowing them, confronting them, and building around them will increase your chance for success.

Roadblock #1:  Money

It is amazing to me the number of businesses that fail due to under-capitalization.

Jesus said, “For which of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28-30 NAS)

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#116: 4 Types of People to Watch Out for in a Crisis

Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain except, death and taxes.” With all due respect to Ben, I would add “crisis” to that list of things we can be certain of at some point in our lives.


We are at our most vulnerable when in the midst of a crisis.  We are prone to denial, indecisiveness, procrastination, and a host of other physiological, psychological, and spiritual issues.

It is precisely at this time when we are in the midst of crisis, that we need to be on the lookout for those who would attempt to use our problems for their own selfish gain.

In my study of 2 Samuel 16, I ran across four different types of characters who took advantage of King David when he was in the midst of a crisis, and I realized that I’ve run across all four in my business career. My bet is that they will look familiar to you as well.

Set the Scene

David’s son, Absalom, decided he wanted to be king. He started gathering followers and gained enough strength to challenge David’s army. David, in fear of Absalom, fled the city with his people journeying toward the wilderness.

Character #1 – The Opportunist

Ziba, who was the servant of Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son), met David in the wilderness with some food and wine. He told David that Mephibosheth stayed in Jerusalem in hopes of restoring his grandfather, Saul’s, kingdom. Ziba was trying to take advantage of the situation David was in, and it worked. David turned all of Mephibosheth’s property over to Ziba.

Lesson for Us. David should have suspected Ziba. After all, David is the one who restored Mephibosheth, cared, protected, and provided for him. David’s decision was based on Ziba’s word alone, with no assurance that Ziba had told him the truth. Look out for the opportunists.

Character #2 – The Blamer

Shimei, a man from the house of Saul, met David in the city of Bahurim. Shimei blamed David for the destruction of Saul’s family and the nation of Israel.  He was upset because he had lost status when Saul’s family fell out of power, and he blamed David for it.

Lesson for Us. Don’t be surprised in the middle of your crisis if someone from the past steps forward to blame you for something that happened to him or her. They may call you names, lie about you, or disparage your credibility. Be ready for the blamers.

Character #3 – The Avenger

When Shimei confronted David, Abishai’s response was to ask David for permission to cut off Shimei’s head. He wanted to avenge David’s honor right then and there, and he wanted to take drastic action. David wisely said no, not wanting to act impulsively, he thought perhaps the Lord had told Shimei to confront him.

Lesson for Us. There may be those that stand beside us in times of crisis who will come to our defense. That’s admirable, but we need to make sure that any action we take is not taken out of revenge. Be temperate and thoughtful when making decisions in the midst of a crisis.

Character #4 – The Traitor

Ahithophel had been David’s trusted counselor.  But as Absalom gained power Ahithophel turned traitor when he joined Absalom as his counselor. Then he plotted to help Ahithophel destroy David.

Lesson for Us.  There may be those who are with you right up until the crisis erupts. They may desert you thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fight. Be mindful of trusted friends and counselors who may be tempted to defect and leave you in the dust.

Like death and taxes, a crisis is bound to be part of our life journey. There’s not much you can do about them. Try as you might you can’t prevent them all. So when a crisis comes your way watch out for the opportunist, the blamer, the avenger, and the traitor.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you suffered through a personal or business crisis in which you had to deal with an opportunist, an avenger, a blamer, or a traitor?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Personal Development | Self-discipline