A question that recently popped up on one of my WhatsApp groups was – “Hey, I am taking a leadership class, and have to suggest a book for people who don’t usually have the time to read”.

Several helpful suggestions had already flown in.

I responded saying – “If the person does not have the time to read, he is not qualified to lead. Ignoramuses cannot be leaders.”

Being a leader boils down to leading a bunch of people in some aspect of their lives. It may be a biological responsibility as a parent, or as a patriarch of a large family. Or it could be something that was thrust on you as you advanced in your career. 

The inevitable and the accidental leader can get away with not giving a thought of how they can be better. They did not want it in the first place, and won’t be heart broken if that responsibility is taken away.

But if you are a leader who wants to be better at leadership – and be a force for good, you cannot escape from the responsibility of absorbing some of the ideas that are out there.

While TED talks and podcasts are great for the commute and passive listening, reading great books is an active task. There is nothing passive about reclining in a chair amongst plants and soft-music and reading a great book.

Your brain goes into an active mode and you learn one more thing that takes you one step closer to being a great leader.

You will come across indulgent coaches and consultants who tell you that it’s okay if you cannot make the time to read. Such indulgence is akin to cutting open the cocoon when you see the under-developed butterfly struggling inside it.

The thing that emerges will not be a butterfly, since its wings remain underdeveloped because it could not exercise it inside the cocoon. Having such coaches and mentors make you a leader with weak wings. Do you want that?

I see too many articles and listicles touting how one can become a great leader by doing 5, 8 or 11 things. How, if you could have the mindset of Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, you can become the next great hope for mankind. I call these as attempts to infantilize leadership.

Leadership is not easily defined or practiced. To lead something of significance in a responsible manner remains one of the pinnacles of human achievement. It cannot be replicated easily. It takes time, energy and discipline. And a lot of reading.

What do you think? Have you come across leaders who don’t read but lead very well? Do you think it is irresponsible for a leader to stop reading and only learn from talks and podcasts? How often do you think a leader should stop and read and think before making a decision?

Note : This article was originally published on LinkedIn

Ramesh Dorairaj

Ramesh Dorairaj is consultant, coach and an author. He has 27+ Years of Experience consulting for Fortune 500 companies worldwide. He has groomed 50+ leaders. Has participated in 2.5 Billion $ worth of successful deals.  He is a Certified Executive Coach at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching, Certified Sales Coach and a Certified Proposal Coach.

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