"Leaders are Readers" (3 Non-reading Steps to Becoming a Leader)

by Joe Fontenot

“Leaders are Readers” (3 Non-reading Steps to Becoming a Leader)

“Leaders are readers.”

I like to read. And I’ve always liked this saying, because it reinforces something I’m good at: reading.

But then I got to thinking.

What if I were dyslexic and reading was a true challenge? Am I no longer a leader? Or, what if I grew up in war-torn Sudan, where clothes and food were scarce (and how much less so books)? Are there no leaders there?

The truth is, it’s not about reading. It’s about learning.

Leaders are learners. But not everyone learns in the same way.

4 ways a person learns:

1. Visually

These learners tend to be on the analytic side and like to see how things connect. If you’re a visual learning, you’ll probably be attracted to charts and graphs. How material is presented (graphically) is also important.

2. Audibly

Audible learners do best by what they hear. If you learn best when you’re dialoging and hearing concepts out loud, you’re probably an audible learner. You’ll want to make sure you learn ‘next to’ a person who’s a sounding board for you.

3. Reading/Writing

If you learn best by picking up a book or articulating your thoughts in print, then you’re in the reading/writing camp. This is how education in the West is structured. (And this is probably why a quote like “leaders are readers” came about.)

4. Kinesthetic

Kinesthetic is hands on. If you need to move around or get your hands dirty to really get in the flow of learning, then you most likely fall into the kinesthetic category. Of all the different learning types, these are probably the most misunderstood (by the other three).

When we look at learning like this, two things emerge.

First, there’s not one right way to learn. Different people learn in different ways.

And second, the quote “leaders are readers” is not good leadership advice for most of the leaders in the world.

Taking all that together, if we want to lead, we need to understand how we learn, and then how those we’re leading learn. Leaders are learners.

3 steps to leading others:

  1. Do what invigorates you. If you don’t care, no one else will. It has to start here.
  2. Look at the overlap. What are you learning that overlaps with what others could (or should) be learning? That’s the area that will be most interesting and relevant to your followers.
  3. Explain it in their language. If you learn a universal truth but cannot translate it, it doesn’t do much good. Leaders understand those they’re leading. And they teach them in ways they can understand.

The great thing about this simple method is that it makes intuitive sense. Just about everything you’ve ever learned has come this way: someone’s passed on a lesson they’ve learned in a way you can understand.

If you want to be a leader, do more of that.