By Javis Mugagga
Up until a few years ago Rick Warren read a book every single day. Abraham Lincoln who only had one year of formal education credited his appetite for reading with his success. Teddy Roosevelt was rumored to actually read two books a day. Thomas Jefferson had one of the most exhaustive personal libraries of his time prior to donating it to the Library of Congress. The moral of my story is that in order to be a great leader, you must absolutely be a great reader. “If you want to hide anything from an African hide it in a book” Do you believe this? All great leaders have one thing in common: They read voraciously. Did you know that the average Ugandan only reads one book a year? Surprisingly, it is a fact that 60% of the average Ugandans only get through the first chapter. Even more impressive is that some of the most successful leaders throughout history were known to read one book every single day. Bottom line…if you’re a leader and not an avid reader, very soon your scope of wisdom will soon be shallow. In today’s feature I’ll share my thoughts on the value of reading… As a Youth Leadership Development practioner, there is little doubt that I’m passionate about personal and professional development, and there is one simple reason why – it works. Great leaders are like a sponge when it comes to the acquisition of knowledge, development of new skills sets, and the constant refinement of existing competencies. The best leaders I’ve ever known are prolific readers and most successful people I know consume written content at a pace that far exceeds that of the average person. My message today is a simple one – if you want to improve the way you LEAD, as well as the lives around you – read more. The best way to meet Bill Gates, Prof. Gordon Wavamuno or Albert Einstein is through reading their writings.
While there are certainly numerous ways to learn (observation, experience, classroom instruction, relational interactions, etc.), I am a huge fan of the benefits of Leadership development gained from good personal reading. Someone once said “you are what you read”, Proverbs say: “As a man thinketh so he is…” and while I think there is far more to the equation of our individual make-up than our choice of reading material, the statistics mentioned above prove there is also an element of truth contained in the aforementioned quote. If I told you how much time I spend reading and researching you probably wouldn’t believe it, but suffice to say, I am a voracious reader. I will often read a book within 3 days, have more than 100 books and 200 videos on Leadership, Media, Finance, Marketing & Branding. I subscribe to online platforms, use RSS feeds to scour news groups and forums. I devour social content on blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., and this is in addition to reading a variety of industry publications and periodicals.
With what I’ve noted thus far I’m always amazed at the number of lay leaders, pastors, priests who don’t keep up with their reading. To be honest, I have little patience for those leaders who are “too busy” or “too smart” or “too important” to learn new things. Simple, if you’re not learning, you are not leading. How can you possibly be expected to grow an organization, a parish, a business and a Church if you’re not growing yourself? How can you accept the responsibility to develop people if you’re not developing yourself? – You can’t give what you don’t have. John Maxwell says you may teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are. At Cornerstone we normally say “who we are is primary and what we are is secondary, what flows out of who we are?”, it is an idea that emphasizes personal development.The greatest leaders throughout history have been nothing short of relentless in their pursuit of knowledge. If you are anything less then you are not only cheating yourself, but you’re also cheating your followers. I don’t know about you, but I’m still learning. I sometimes think, the day i stop reading, the day I stop learning – that’s the day I stop leading and likely the day I stop growing.
When I speak of acquiring knowledge, I’m not promoting intellectual elitism, rather I’m espousing the benefits that are derived by those who have a true and sincere passion for learning…there is a difference. Intellectual elitists are by-in-large braggarts that acquire knowledge (or feign possession thereof) for public acclaim and their own self-promotion. Learning serves little purpose for leaders if it is not actionable. If you acquire knowledge, yet choose not to use it for the benefit of others, then you’re not a leader, you’re self-indulgent. Once a mentor told me a few years ago that, knowing and not doing is not knowing. “Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge, let your learning lead to ACTION” – Jim Rohn. I have never been a believer in this common saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” To the contrary, I believe anyone can change/learn/grow/develop given one prerequisite; the desire to do so. When it comes to topic of learning, it has been my experience that there are generally three types of people: those who constantly seek to acquire knowledge, those who think they already know it all, and those who just don’t care. What distinguishes members of one group from another rarely has anything to do with intellect, wealth, social pedigree, career standing but it is all about desire.
Reading should not be something that is done when you’re bored, or have nothing better to do, rather it needs to be incorporated into your daily schedule. I have personally read and met many Leaders and without question the most successful Leaders are those that constantly seek out learning opportunities and who are voracious readers. They realize the importance of learning and make reading a priority. Think of the business leaders that have had the biggest positive impact in your life, and I’m sure you’ll find that these individuals were in constant search of new and better information. They use the information acquired through reading in order to inspire, motivate, and lead those around them.
An American investor visited my workplace about five years ago, and made an unforgettable statement: “the number one cause of poverty and diseases in Africa is operating on wrong or outdated information”, I vehemently believed him. Educationist, When did we last review our education system?
The question is not if you should be reading, but rather what should you be reading? What are you feeding your mind with? With the plethora of reading material on the market today, it is not a simple thing to make sure that you’re covering all the bases in a timely and efficient fashion.
Here are tips to enhance your reading:
Books: My first piece of advice to you is: develop the habit of buying books and drop the idea of borrowing for it cripples you. In the past 7 years I have managed to read over 200 books, fortunately I own all of them. How was I able to do that? It was to drop borrowing books from people’s libraries. By God’s grace I have my personal Library now.
Digital Media/ New Media: Don’t ignore the new forms of social media like Twitter, Whatsup, Facebook, Linkedin Groups, Forums, blogs and News Portals. Many people in our Catholic communities haven’t leveraged these platforms. Rev. Fr. Robert Barron has challenged millions of priests and lay leaders around the world to leverage new media platform. The world is going digital, don’t be left out and Pope Francis too is advocating for New Evangelization.
Young or old, experienced or inexperienced, the best way to approach Leadership development, is to always stay in the learning zone. When you think you have all the answers; is when you are headed straight for the proverbial brick wall.
That said, most things in life happen as a result of choices we make. My recommendation is, if you want to increase your impact or influence, increase your reading!
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