“Leaders are readers.” I heard this expression three times in the past week. This leadership idea was shared with me by a local high school teacher, a senior manager of business excellence at a global toy company, and a CEO of a 116-year old national insurance company.
Not only does this expression, “leaders are readers,” have a nice ring to it, there is deep meaning in it.
When I googled to find out who is credited for this inspiring quote, I found the author to be the 33rd President of the United States. There is a bit more to the quote which makes the idea even more intriguing.
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
– Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States (1945-1953)
If you are a leader or desire to be a leader, it’s time to examine your reading routine and kick it up a notch or two.
So many books, so little space and time
I recently moved my office and discovered that I have an enormous number of business books. My husband encouraged me to let some of them go. I suddenly became very defensive and protective of my books. Then I realized that value of books is in the act of exchanging ideas, first between the author and the reader, and then between the reader and his/her friends.
That’s when I remembered a cool thing that Kevin Bouley, president and CEO of Nerac, did for me some years back. He loaned me a book. I had just met him for the first time at a networking event held at his company in Tolland, Connecticut. He got a spark in his eye and asked me if I had read the book Blue Ocean Strategy. I had not, so he offered to loan it to me. He went to his office to get a copy for me. He was very clear with me that he wanted it back when I finished reading it.
Kevin’s actions resulted in two things: 1) I felt obligated to read some or all of this book that otherwise I may not have discovered; and 2) I had the opportunity to see him again when I returned the book. This book loan became a new thread between us.
Create a thought-leadership bond between you and those in your network
Lending books from your personal library to selected people in your network is a creative way to advance your relationship. While it may be easier to purchase and gift books to them (especially if they live far from you), the act of lending creates an expectation and the opportunity for a return engagement. It’s a meaningful reason for both of you to get together again in a few months.
Pass it on
Loaning and/or gifting books to people in your professional network is a wonderful way to pay it forward. It keeps you in good standing with people and produces more positive karma for you.
When you loan out books, I recommend that you put your name and telephone number on the inside front cover of the book. You may want to keep a record of to whom you loan your books to, because you may need to nudge them in the future. While it is wonderful when they do return the books, don’t expect them to and certainly don’t get upset if they don’t. Not everyone is as well organized as you are. As Alexander Pope once said “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
You might also decide that you are ready to part with the book and don’t wish it to be returned to you. You can use such a book to begin a mobile book library. It would be cool to see where this books travels to, kind of like the book version of Flat Stanley. Encourage people to read it and pass it on. In this case, you should write your name and the date on the inside cover of the book. Give the page a headline such as Read and Recommended By, or a catchy title that implies action, such as Pass It On.
If you are an avid e-book reader, you can recommend book titles to the people in your network.
What you read is a reflection of your personal brand
The books that you pass on are a reflection of the ideas and ideals that you believe in. You don’t have to be the author to get author’s credit. The sheer act of helping someone discover a book that makes a difference in their career, business or life, will help you build good karma and equity in your personal leadership brand.
Your Networking GOAL for the week:
Go through your personal library and find a book that has brought something good into your life. Think of a person in your network who would benefit from reading this book. Call them and get together for a networking coffee or lunch. Bring the book with you and give it to them in person. Be sure to write your name on the inside front over of the book. Decide if you want them to return it to you or to pass it on. Passing on the knowledge and insight contained in a book (in whatever form or fashion you choose to do it) is a great way to pay it forward and to continue to develop mutually-beneficial relationships in your network.