Why Readers Make Better Leaders

Alex Pollock

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them” — Mark Twain

Last summer, I attended a two-day meeting focused on improving leadership effectiveness. More than a dozen speakers gave their perspectives on what makes leaders effective. I was struck by the one trait nearly everyone viewed as essential — a ferocious appetite for reading.

I noted the speakers didn’t just target books or articles in their chosen field, but also included works that would broaden their worldview . What these leaders all had in common was a commitment to self-improvement and an interest in translating this insight into value for others.

For me, reading has also shaped how I see the world. In particular, the books that have had a life-altering effect on me include:

“The Power of the Servant Leader” by Robert Greenleaf

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey

“The Leader of the Future” edited by Frances Hesselbein for the Drucker Foundation

“Bringing Out the Best in People” by Aubrey Daniels

“Leadership by the Book” by Ken Blanchard, Bill Hybels and Phil Hodges

“12: The Elements of Great Managing” by Rodd Wagner and James Harter

“The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Through insights from authors like those listed above I came to view leadership as a “relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.” Effective leadership goes way beyond a title on a business card; it’s about building relationships.

What are some books or articles that were game changers for you? Please take a few moments to share how the authors changed your paradigm. We can all benefit from the journey of others.

About Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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  1. William D'Alessandro

    April 5, 2011

    The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens.
    Everything you need to know about graft, corruption, hypocrisy, and human motivations in business and government. As true today as in 1931 from one of America’s original muckrakers.

    Global Reach. By Richard Barnet and Ronald Mueller.
    More astonishing today than it was even in 1974 when, for the first time, the authors dissected the newly emerging transnational corporation, and accurately predicted all the issues related to multinational business that the world is wrestling with today.

  2. Jennifer Kreusch

    April 8, 2011

    Re-Creating the Corporation by Russell Ackoff.
    You start with identifying the corporation’s mission, and then work backward to create the infrastructure and processes to fulfill the mission, rather than being hindered by the bureacracy and historic infrastructure that developed over time.

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