Read to Lead: What Successful Business Leaders are Reading Today

Many successful business leaders are known to be voracious readers. According to Mike Myatt, a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEO’s, “CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read an average of four to five books a month.” Whew, that’s a lot of reading!  I’m curious if this isn’t actually a chicken and the egg scenario. Which came first? Were they naturally curious with a high continuous learning desire that led them to read and therefore become successful? Or, have they become so self-aware they realize that in order to be and remain successful, reading is a key element? In any case, it’s seems clear that reading is key.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

I love this quote by Maya Angelou. It inspires me to pick up the book that’s been sitting on the side table for months.  By learning something new, I can be better. I can be a better spouse, parent and leader and so can you. Here are 5 books worth putting on your list. I’ve curated them from several lists put out by leaders such as Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, Marissa Mayer, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and Arianna Huffington.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I love history and I’m always intrigued with historical books that have a modern message. Goodwin studies Lincoln’s leadership style and how despite having limited formal knowledge, used emotional intelligence to turn his rivals into supporters. In today’s world where collaboration and partnerships are becoming key to growing our businesses, learning from Lincoln seems appropriate.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Like Robin Sharma’s book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Coelho uses the storytelling technique of parable to deliver his message. We follow the adventures of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, in search of a worldly treasure. What we really discover is how finding “worldly treasure” (and it’s different for each of us), is dependent on how we apply wisdom, perspective and desire. Nothing like a refresher to help us look at our business with fresh eyes.

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success by Matthew Syed. So who wouldn’t want to read case studies of business failures? Don’t we all end up peeking at that car wreck as we crawl past on a backed up highway? But this book isn’t about the failures, it’s about how these leaders have a perspective that failure is learning. In these volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times it seems some sort of failure is inevitable. Learning practical new ways to embrace failure as a way to drive success is a good addition to any leader’s toolkit.

Daring Greatly by Bréne Brown. When it comes to leadership traits where does vulnerability land? Is it a weakness? Is it a measure of courage? How much is enough and how much is too much when it comes leadership? We’ve come a long way from hiding all vulnerabilities with command and control management styles. But now, how far should the pendulum swing for today’s model of inspirational leadership?

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute. While the author may make this sound like an academic read, the contents actually tell an entertaining story about a man going through challenges at work and at home. I wouldn’t call my challenges entertaining, at least not in the moment, but these encounters are certainly challenges I can relate to. With five generations in the workplace all trying to make things better, this book can really help all of us find happiness.

These 5 books have a variety of messages delivered in a variety of ways. I encourage you to throw a few fiction reads onto the list as well. Part of being a great leader is knowing how to take time to refresh and rejuvenate. Nothing wrong with checking out for a bit and escaping into a captivating murder mystery.

Are you ready to turn a new page? Remember to read and lead.

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