If you want to lead, you’ve got to read
Recently, I was in a meeting with a CEO who expressed concern that he no longer had time to read. “I’ve read more books on leadership than most, and they all say the same thing.”
We entered into a healthy discussion about this topic, and I discovered that the reason he had “no time” to read, was that it simply wasn’t a priority. It wasn’t a part of his daily or weekly schedule so other things naturally squeezed out any ‘spare’ time he might have had.
Secondly, I learned that he wasn’t up to speed on some of the excellent books that had been published in the last few years. Many can be downloaded onto an iPad or Kindle and read on a plane, in bed late at night, or simply catching a few moments enjoying a coffee. For my friend, it really was an issue of priority. Click here to see my recommend list of leadership books.
Of course, it’s impossible to remember everything you read, but nearly always you can remember the broad perspectives and themes that present a different way of looking at a problem or leadership challenge you might be facing.
One book that got me thinking recently was the book by Melvyn Bragg called, 12 Books That Changed the World. While I might have come up with a different selection, Bragg produces a broad list of ‘books’ that contain significant historical facts, ideas, stories, and discoveries that have helped to shape our thinking in relation to economics, medicine, physics, science, law, love, sport, religion, and human rights. These include:
- Principia Mathematica in 1687 by Isaac Newton
- Marries Love in 1918 by Marie Stopes
- Magna Carta in June 1215 by Members of the English Ruling Classes
- The Rule Book of Association Football in 1863 by A Group of Former English Public School Men
- On the Origin of Species in 1859 by Charles Darwin
- On the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1789 by William Wilberforce in Parliament
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792 by Mary Wollesoncraft
- Experimental Researches in Electricity (3 Volumes) in 1839, 1844 and 1855 by Michael Faraday
- Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine in 1769 by Richard Arkwright
- The King James Bible in 1611 by William Tyndale and Fifty-four Scholars Appointed by the King
- An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776 by Adam Smith
- The First Folio in 1623 by William Shakespeare
Having read Bragg’s book, I tried to assemble a list of books that have been a significant part of my own leadership journey and thinking over the last 20 years or more. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive or conclusive, as there are many more I would mention. I’ve intentionally left out novels and historical fiction. I can only imagine how difficult Bragg found it!
As you look it, take a few moments to think about the books that you would list. If you want to let others know what you have found helpful or inspiring, simply go to the ‘Leave a Reply’ section below this post.
My list of 12 (in no order of priority) is:
- The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, 1994
- Virtuous Leadership by Alexandré Havard, 2007
- A Life of Martin Luther King by Stephen B. Oates, 1994
- The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey, 2006
- Spiritual Leadership by Henry & Richard Blackaby, 2001
- Amazing Dad: Letters From William Wilberforce to His Children by Stephanie Byrd, 2010
- Servant-Leadership Across Cultures by Fons Trompennars & Ed Voerman, 2010
- The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins, 2003
- The Little Red Book of Wisdom by Mark DeMoss, 2007
- The Bible – New International Version, 1996
- Powerful Personalities by Tim Kimmel, 1993
- A Short History of the 20th Century by Geoffrey Blainey, 2005
 Melvyn Bragg, 12 Books That Changed the World. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2012