The Ultimate Success Story: Why People Who Read Are Better Leaders

by Dan Scotti

Kurt Vonnegut described reading as a miracle.

He once wrote that “reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found,” and “by reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well.”

What Vonnegut is alluding to here is the connection shared between reader and writer. In effect, whenever you pick up a book, it’s as if you’re instantly granted access to the mind of whoever penned it.

For as long as you keep your nose buried in some story, you temporarily surrender control to its creator.

The world they create through their text, you begin to see. The characters they introduce, you come to know and understand. The lessons they set out to teach, you can’t help but learn along the way.

As Vonnegut expressed, by reading the work of some of the most fascinating minds imaginable, you can develop an intimacy with not only authors, themselves, but all of the authors they read, as well.

That’s the influence of reading and writing, alike. It tends to rub off on you -- it tends to change you.

And as it does, it will likely do so for the better. The more you read, the greater the perspective you’ll begin to gain. Reading allows one to leave his or her own brain and become exposed to new ways of thinking.

And for that reason, I’ve always viewed avid readers as the people best fit to be leaders. It’s impossible to lead a group of people if you’re not willing to think outside the walls of your own mind.

Additionally, a lot of the same skills possessed by good readers overlap with those of successful leaders.

Readers are less stressed.

According to one study posted by The Telegraph, “Reading can help reduce stress.”

As one submerges his or herself into literature and enters the world created by the text, psychologists believe the tension found in the muscles and heart can be relieved, thanks to the distraction of reading.

A study conducted by Mindlab International at the University of Sussex tested the calming powers of reading against other common stress-aids -- things like listening to music, playing video games or having a cup of tea -- and reading reigned supreme.

Reading relieved stress by as much as 68 percent, cognitive neuroscientist Dr. David Lewis reported.

He continued to say, "It really doesn't matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author's imagination.”

Readers are better people-persons.

Although it may sound counterintuitive -- given the amount of time they likely spend reading quietly -- as Casey Imafidon explains, avid book-readers possess better people skills than those who rarely read.

The logic behind this belief revolves around the notion of empathy that readers demonstrate by trying to relate to characters in books -- whether they’re fictional or not.

According to Imafidon, “By connecting with several characters of a book, we boost our emotional IQ and become more able to connect with people.”

Naturally, these skills are crucial for anyone expected to lead a large group of people. At the end of the day, if you’re unable to put yourself in another’s place, how could you ever be expected to lead him or her?

Readers are extremely committed.

Good readers are committed to what they read -- case closed. Even if a given book isn’t what they were hoping for -- and was a great letdown, at that -- most good readers will see it through from cover to cover.

Readers will feel a sense of loyalty to whatever it is they’re reading. A good book is like a good album -- you know, like a Radiohead album -- one you absolutely need to ingest from start to finish to fully absorb.

Books are investments, far more than the money you may spend to purchase them. When readers start something -- they finish it. And that’s a valuable habit to maintain when one is expected to lead a group of people.

Readers are better problem-solvers

According to Imafidon, those who read with regularity are more intellectually challenged than those who don’t.

With the help of a study penned by Anne Cunningham and Keith Stanovich, Imafidon explains how “reading builds your intellectual capacity to reason and solve problems.”

As readers maneuver themselves through a story’s tangled plot in search of a resolution, they’re, in effect, solving problems with each page they flip.

As a story unfolds, the reader is forced to constantly -- and intuitively -- react to the plot’s twists and turns, which, in many ways, can keep the brain fit.

And, among leaders, the ability to react swiftly is imperative.