This week, Facebook launched a campaign called #ReadtoLead and is asking for leaders to share the books that have influenced them most in 2016. High-profile leaders like Richard Branson and Bill Gates have already weighed in with their picks, citing titles ranging from Phil Knight's Shoe Dog to Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie.
While the campaign is bringing added (and much appreciated) attention to the importance of reading to business leaders, we are no stranger to the lists of "must-read" books for leaders and articles exposing the libraries of top leaders. We have come to expect Bill Gates to update his blog regularly with book recommendations, and we even know that President Obama read The Girl on the Train this summer.
And yet, even with this information, the Harvard Business Review has reported that reading is down among all adult Americans, even leaders. With thousands of books published daily, on top of an endless stream of articles, op-eds, podcasts, and videos, the amount of content to be consumed is understandably overwhelming.
To all leaders hoping to read more but unsure of where to start, here are three tips to get you going:
Read about Your Industry
Leaders should be reading professional articles and newsletters daily. It's hugely important for a leader to be up-to-speed on what's going on in their industry, so that they can continue to be on the forefront of new trends and communicate intelligently with their peers and superiors. Take some time to find a few sites that provide industry-specific articles, and sign up to receive their content daily.
Those who are in a management role, or who aspire to be, should also regularly check in on professional sites like Inc. or Forbes. Reading articles about leadership can help give you a motivation boost to improve your performance throughout the week.
Taking 5-10 minutes each day to brush up on what's important to you not only keeps you informed but also gives your brain a much-needed break from your workflow.
Read for Professional Development
At the heart of the #ReadtoLead campaign is the idea of professional development. The books being highlighted have helped leaders improve their skills, broaden their outlooks, and grow their businesses.
As a leader, it's important to read books that will help you reach your specific professional goals. Are you working on starting your own company? Entrepreneurship books like The Lean Startup may help you along in the process.
Are you struggling to find a good work-life balance? Don't be afraid to branch out to genres like Self-Help in the name of professional development. A book like Designing Your Life could have an enormous impact on your overall productivity.
Read for Escape
Every leader needs a way to unwind from their day, whether that's watching tv, going for a run, or cooking a nice meal. Leaders need to disconnect from their day-to-day routine to do something that reenergizes them.
Next time you sit down to watch another re-run, try spending that time with a novel instead. You don't need to give up on activities you love. Rather look for downtime that would otherwise be spent doing something less engaging and replace it with reading fiction.
A professor at Harvard Business School has focused an entire class on the relationship between leadership and literature. According to Professor Joseph Badaracco, "What fiction does particularly well is it introduces people to ethical complexities." As leaders move up through their organizations, the decisions they must make become more complex. Putting yourself in the mind of characters who may be facing life-or-death choices helps to expand your decision-making process in a new way.
Professor Bardacco also recommends joining a book club to discuss the novels you read. Would you have made the same decisions? Why or why not? What would you have done differently?
The importance of reading can't be overstated, so take the time to commit to it. Focus your reading efforts in these three areas, and you will see improvements in your professional life in no time.