Leaders strive to become better and challenge themselves to learn as much as they can on their journey to being the best. One simple avenue of self-development is to read books.

Leaders Are Learners

I have had discussions with people who wanted to become better leaders that understood they needed to grow. The consistent problem that surfaced was they were not willing to do what it took to develop their leadership skill set.

As a leader, I read at least 30-45 minutes a day. I do not read because I feel I have to, but I have found that I enjoy it which has not always been the case. My reading preferences include non fiction topics related to leadership, self-development, business, and history.

If you are not a routine reader and would like to start reading more, I would encourage you to find books on topics you enjoy, or that you’re passionate about.

Reading Adds to the Bottom Line

Without question, one way to learn more is to read. I believe some people may avoid self-development topics as they may stir feelings of inadequacy. My experience has been that daily reading has helped me to become a better person both personally and professionally.


According to a number of studies, business professionals who read at least seven leadership, business, or self-development books a year earn 2.3 times more than those who read only one per year.

This is mainly because those who read are exposed to new ideas, best practices, and nuggets of information that others have experienced success with. These books can be on the specific subject or combination that total seven books read.

How Reading Helps

Reading helps leaders with innovation, provides insight on dealing with difficult situations and in managing change. Reading is a great way to exercise your mind, and the more you read, the more you enhance your written and verbal communication skills in the process. My experience is that reading also helps improve your self-image, attitude and memory.

However, if you do not put into practice anything you read, it will not be of any benefit in helping you become a better role model, leader, employee, parent, or person.

All Leaders Are Readers

President Harry S. Truman was an avid reader. He read every book in the library named after him in his hometown of Independence, MO, before he died in 1972. Before meeting with a leader from a different country, he would find something they found appealing or a hobby they enjoyed doing.

President Truman would then read about their pastime or hobby before they met. This allowed him to have knowledge about an interest his counterpart had, which in turn helped him build relationships with other leaders.

Reading is Cost Effective

Seek out your local library and check out books. They have staff that will show you the many different ways you can check out a book. There are even systems in place where you can check out any book in the world.

In today’s age of technology, you can purchase or check out new or used books on various websites. I have purchased numerous, used books online that have been in great condition. Some have even provided great notes that the previous owner had written in the book. Some of their remarks were very profound.

If you do purchase a used book online, assure to do your homework or only purchase with a credible business like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I have also found used books that were in good condition at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the Disabled American Veterans stores that were very affordable.


iBook, Kindle, or Nook, just as with printed books, are affordable and a bountiful resource. Several libraries have a growing collection of more than a thousand e-books that you can download and transfer to your e-reader. Check with your local library to discover what is needed to check out a book online.

Reading and Team Development

The best way to learn something is to read it, teach it, and then practice what you have learned. It is a great way to start an employee development program, which is economical. If you or your team read and discuss one self development book per month for one year that correlates to 12 books annually and 60 books over a five year time span.

By adopting some of the strategies or at minimum, allowing discussion, your organization will have an advantage over others and will encourage dialogue among your team.

This practice has been found to be effective with some investment of time, money, and self-discipline, yet fiscally responsible for many agencies with declining or eliminated training budgets.

Reading by Example

In order to be a leader, people must follow you. Otherwise, you’re just out for a walk.  A key way to influence others is to “walk the talk”, or to “lead by example”. My children enjoy reading, as well as being read to by my wife or myself. My 9 year old daughter, who likes to read, continues to excel in this area, and expanding her growing vocabulary.

My wife and I have made it a priority to set an example for our children as to the importance of reading by consistently reading in their presence. Our children frequently see my wife and me reading books, newspapers, magazines, electronic books, school papers, and anything else we may find interesting.

It is our hope that if we model this behavior, we will instill the importance of reading and continual learning in our children as they grow up.

Give Your Kid a Head Start

girl readingMy daughter earns money from us by reading books, which is an added incentive to promote reading. She is able to earn between $1.00 – $5.00 per book, dependent upon her effort.

To earn a profit from reading, she is required to read books at or above her reading level, prepare a one page book report, and give a one to three minute oral book report in her own words.

This strategy promotes reading by providing a venue for her to earn money, while enhancing reading comprehension skills. It also leads to improving writing skills, building confidence in public speaking, and presentation.

Reading is truly fundamental and a gift. Regardless, if you read for self-improvement or leisure, I would encourage you to pick up a book instead of spending time watching television, surfing the web or playing video games. It’s a good hobby that will not only benefit you, but can be transferred to others you lead.

What Books Do You Recommend for Leaders?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Greg Martin
Greg works for Sedgwick County Department of Corrections and owns Martin Leadership & Management Development. He is a U.S. Army veteran & holds a MS in Leadership and Management from Friends University.