Listicles are everywhere--even mainstream news outlets that once leaned on longer narratives and interviews are turning to this truncated, modular story format. What's more, apps like Spdr are pushing us toward speed reading efficiency while Blinkist is giving us summaries of entire books in 15 minutes. All of this seems ideal for a constantly harried CEO, but there's one thing that this speed-hungry method leaves behind that will ultimately threaten your bottom line: your emotional quotient, or EQ.

In 2018, Inc. columnist Jessica Stillman wrote about the potential pitfalls of skim reading, grounding her observations largely on the research and writing of Maryanne Wolf, who revealed the practice's weaknesses in an exposé in The Guardian. But Stillman's observations focused largely on the dangers to our brain's wiring--among other deleterious byproducts. All of that is certainly true, but Wolf points out another key element of our development that is neglected when we skim read or lean on bulleted summaries of longer works. Wolf writes:

"When the reading brain skims, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don't have time to ... understand another's feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader's own." 

This empathetic understanding is at the center of our relationships, enabling us to build bonds with others. And yes, that's clearly core to our personal relationships, but it's also key to our business relationships. As human resource experts have long affirmed, EQ is central to our ability to communicate, problem-solve, and support staff. It's also the basis for connecting to new and longtime clients. Without these elements firmly in place, our business crumbles; we either lose the staff that makes our work possible, or we alienate potential clients with whom we cannot relate. 

It's trite but true: People don't do business with businesses; they do business with people. That's why EQ is key to your bottom line and why, in turn, deep reading is so important to your EQ. 

To be clear: Reading for bare-bones facts or data can certainly be expedited using vetted speed-reading techniques. But it must be balanced with deep reading for more comprehensive understanding of a book's subjects, circumstances, and emotional complexities. This widens our view of human emotional states and how they are best addressed--keys to your work as a leader.

So instead of going all in on speed-reading programs, skimming techniques, or listicle-only news roundups, consider the significant advantages to investment in deep reading. Then, commit to reading one character-driven book a month. It can be fiction or non-fiction, but it should feature protracted character development and interaction. 

Oh, also, don't take notes. That's not what this is about. Just soak it in and let your "observation" of and reaction to the characters inform your ongoing communication, problem-solving, and emotional development as a leader. You'll see your perspective, responses, and observations change as you engage in more of this deep reading. That, over time, will prove a boon to your company's growth, reputation, and, yes, your bottom line.

Published on: Mar 4, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.