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Leaders Should Be Reading

March 26, 2024

It’s been said many times by those much wiser than me that to be a great leader, you’ve got to be an avid reader. My colleague and friend Ken Stibler reiterated this point during a talk to one of my Vistage groups last week, and it prompted me to write this blog. I firmly believe in daily professional reading and consistently advise my clients to do the same. Dedicating just 30-45 minutes a day to reading might sound like a big ask with the crazy schedules we all keep, but it’s pretty doable when you think about it in the grand scheme of things. And it’s absolutely essential.

Free Serious businesswoman checking papers at table with cup of coffee Stock Photo

Being at the top means you’ve got to have a solid base of knowledge. The decisions you make and the actions you take are only as good as the information they’re based on. And with how fast the world changes, staying in the loop on issues that might impact your business is not optional—it’s critical.

What Should You Be Reading?

So, what’s on the reading list for a CEO or business owner? Here are my top picks:

  • Industry-Specific Publications: Whatever your industry, there’s likely a journal or magazine for it. Find it, subscribe, and make it part of your daily reading.
  • The Wall Street Journal: It’s part of my morning ritual. The front page alone can give you a good sense of the bigger picture, and if something catches my eye, I’ll dive deeper into that section.
  • Your Local Business News: Keeping tabs on the local business scene can give you invaluable insights and, sometimes, a competitive edge.
  • Must-Have Subscriptions:
  • Online Resources: Websites like Knowledge at Wharton and Kellogg Insight are part of my regular browsing for fresh perspectives and ideas.
  • Specialty Publications/Resources: Depending on your expertise, subscribing to niche publications can keep you sharp in your specific field (e.g., HR Magazine – SHRM, CFO Magazine, Marketing Week, etc..)

Beyond Books and Articles

It’s also super helpful to set up Google Alerts for your main clients, partners, and even competitors, especially if they’re publicly listed. This keeps you on your toes with what’s happening around you.

As you move up the ladder, your job becomes less about doing and more about thinking and strategizing. You can hire people to handle the day-to-day, but understanding the broader business environment and making strategic decisions? That’s on you. And you can’t rely on past experiences or gut instinct for that. Being well-read and informed is non-negotiable if you want your business to thrive and stay ahead of the curve.

In short, making reading a consistent part of your daily routine is one of the best investments you can make—not just in yourself but in your company’s future.