One of the most famous leadership quotes of all time originated with Harry S. Truman; it goes like this:
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
Warren Buffett and his right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, are two of the richest men in the world and have been credited for billions in shareholder value. Here is a very powerful leadership perspective each of us can learn from these men to grow our leadership.
“I just sit in my office and read all day.” –Warren Buffet
“You could hardly find a partnership in which two people settle on reading more hours of the day than in ours.” – Charlie Munger
“Look, my job is essentially just corralling more and more and more facts and information, and occasionally seeing whether that leads to some action. And Charlie—his children call him a book with legs.” –Warren Buffett
The leadership principle here is mission critical. I would even say one of the most important habits one must have in place to be a great leader.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men on the planet, is said to have been a bookworm as a kid. According to Business Insider, his parents had to stop him from bringing books to the dinner table. If you visit Gates’ website, you’ll find that books, book reviews, and reading are a major theme of his life.
By the age of five, before he ever started school, Harry Truman’s mother taught him to read. He was a consummate learner and consequently read voraciously. Truman did not graduate from college, yet became a great leader and President of the United States. Truman, in just ten short words, clearly exposed the truth that if you want to be a leader, you must be a reader.
You can be in charge and not be a reader.
You can be the boss and not be a reader.
You can have an important title and not be a reader.
But if you want to be a LEADER, you HAVE to be a reader.
I’m not talking about reading the news every day.
I’m not talking about reading your favorite blog each week.
I’m not talking about owning books.
Here is the principle: Leaders Read!!!
If you want to be a #1 leader, then be a #1 reader.
If you want to be a #5 leader, then be a #5 reader.
If you want to be a #10!!! Then you need to be a #10 reader!!!
Recently I was listening to a podcast interview with the Vice President of a very successful NBA franchise, and he talked about reading two hours EVERY day.
He made it very clear that as role and responsibility grow, the more we need to grow our leadership, and that comes from reading. He also tied the success of their organization to a growth mindset which is fed by reading.
Theodore Roosevelt is credited as one of the greatest presidents in history. The following was written about him:
“In his library he has over 4,000 volumes, mostly of English and American poetry, American history and outdoor life. Mr. Roosevelt keeps half of his books in the top of his house in a big gun-room. He enjoys nothing better than association with his books. He is so full of the enthusiasm of a literary student that he sandwiches a little book talk in most all the conversations he has with his friends.” –The New York Red Book
Is there any better mental image of a leader than a gun room full of books?
It’s also comforting to know this same leader, made famous by saying “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” was an insatiable reader.
John Maxwell, respected leadership expert and one of the most prolific leadership writers, said it this way,
“The greatest influence on my life are the books I’ve read.”
So thank you, Harry Truman, for helping us understand that in order to be great leaders, we need to be great readers.