The Value of a Book (THE LIST: Read to Lead)

Before a marketer creates an ad, he or she describes the audience: what they do, what they like, where they are. This helps target the ad to the specific type of people. When we do this exercise for ReDefine, one point that always comes up is that our audience reads books. Why is this so important? Because the people who get value from our work actively seek out new ways to lead, and they know – intuitively or not – that books are one of the most powerful and effective tools to do so.

Here's the way to quantify the value of reading. For investors, a return of, say, 50% over a few years is fantastic. Buy a book or two for $20 each, spend a couple of hours reading, implement a behavioral change that improves your performance, and get a raise for a few grand each year of the rest of your career. What’s the return on that investment?

This is the basic point that Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski make it Read to Lead: The Simple Habit That Expands Your Influence and Boosts Your Career. They build on this idea with a set of useful tools to inspire, encourage, and support a habit of reading.

One of the basic points that Mr. Brown and Mr. Wisenewski make is that writing a book is fundamentally different from posting on social media and that we as learners have to see that value. When an author writes a book, she puts her heart into the pages and then puts her name on the cover. The information in the book – or the story, for fiction authors – represents the best that she can do. Social media, by contrast, is driven by catching people’s attention. Think of all of the leadership quotes and photos of expensive cars and houses that feel good but fade quickly, never creating behavioral change. Yes, there are plenty of examples of structured learning on social media sites, but these resources are buried in among the noise and flash. Unless we see the difference, we are likely to be distracted by a definition of leadership that is misleading.

Read to Lead has plenty of practical tactics, and they apply to deliberate learning more generally. For example, Chapter 6 describes nine tactics to find a few minutes of reading time:

  1. Reading doesn’t take as long as you think.

  2. Commit to making reading a priority.