“Leaders are readers, and readers are leaders.”
– Prof. Howard Hendricks
I can still hear Prof’s exhortation ringing in my ears from a class I took from him 25 years ago. Broad reading is crucial to expand one’s leadership horizons. Others agree. Oswald Sanders devotes an entire chapter to “The Leader and Reading” in his classic Spiritual Leadership.
It has been my practice for about the past ten years to devote a week every six months to some serious reading. Of course, like you, I’m reading all the time. Reading week is different, though. It’s a week devoid of meetings, appointments, or any pressure to respond to emails. This mini-sabbatical gives me an opportunities to prayerfully pursue new ideas. This type of mental and spiritual renewal is crucial for successful leadership, otherwise I can easily get bogged down in groupthink or “well, we’ve always approached it such and such a way.”
Just to be clear, I never feel compelled to read every page in a book. Most printed books published today are designed to sell copy and need 200-300 pages to justify the publisher’s cost. The author’s core idea can usually be found in the Preface and Chapter 1, with some really good support sprinkled through the remaining chapters. Much of the rest is filler. If a brief scan of the first 25% of the book doesn’t reward my time or bring new ideas, the book will probably go into the trash can or deleted from my iPad. Life’s too short to read average books.
Here’s the stack I’ll be working through this week, Lord willing, for a few hours each day. Some are new to me, others will be reviewed for key ideas that seem relevant to the next season of ministry.
I’ll read quickly, lingering where I feel like it. I’ll highlight, underline, annotate, and dog-ear like crazy. I won’t feel guilty if I don’t make it through the whole stack. This week is for me and my own development. Above all, I’ll keep the words of the Preacher in mind: “But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).
How do you approach reading for your personal development?