The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. No paperback, no Kindle, no audiobook. The number of non-book readers has nearly tripled since 1978. In 1978, Gallup found that 42% of adults had read 11 books or more in the last year. Today, Pew finds that just 28% hit the mark. For the first time in American history, less than half of the U.S. adult American population is reading literature. This is terrible news for leadership: Business people seem to be reading less, particularly content unrelated to business. However, deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our best leaders and can help synthesize insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness. Steve Jobs was an admirer of William Blake, Phil Knight owns a prestigious library, Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein reads dozens of books each week. The leadership benefits of reading are obvious and wide-ranging: improving intelligence, leading to innovation and insights, more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills. Reading increases verbal intelligence, and improves empathy and understanding of social cues. Last but least, reading helps to relax and reduce stress. Before you head to the bookstore or Amazon, here are few tips to get you started:
- Read outside your comfort zone: Don’t just read business books, commit to reading one book a month outside of your profession: a novel, a book of poetry, biography, or the arts.
- Create a reading group: Why not meet with likeminded friends every month to read classics? Use social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn or Goodreads to find friends with the same passion.
- Share your favorite books: After your team accomplished a task/finished a project, send them a book that’s dear to your heart. It might encourage discussion, cross-application of important lessons, and more readers within your team.
- Enjoy: Don’t just read because you have to. Enjoy it, relax, escape and put your mind at ease.