I have mentioned Jim Rohn’s great quote, “Leaders are readers,” a few times before. I have always liked that quote, and I have always agreed with it. Unfortunately, too many “leaders” don’t follow the point that he is making. I believe that many coaches would fall into that category.
So, today I have tweaked the quote a little bit to make it “prescriptive” rather than “descriptive.”
Rohn’s quote is saying that leaders are readers. He is describing the leaders of the world as people who read.
I have chosen to turn the quote into a prescriptive concept: “If you’re going to lead, you need to read.”
Far too many people in leadership positions do not read on a consistent basis. Therefore, they are not growing, improving, and developing as much as they could be.
While this concept applies to any leadership position, the leadership world that I am in most of all is the world of coaching athletics. I have known my share of coaches who weren’t into reading. In fact, their exact words were: “I don’t read all that much.”
I get it. Reading isn’t their thing. And usually, because I am their friend or an acquaintance of theirs in some way, I try to be nice and say something like, “Well, you really should check out” whatever book I have just been recommending to them. And then I go on my way.
But today, sitting behind a keyboard, and not looking anybody in the face, I’m going to call BS on any of you who might be hiding behind that concept.
YOU MUST START READING IF YOU WANT TO BE LEADING!!
Why do you think that you can just coast through your leadership role without trying to improve as much as you can in any way that you can to become the best you’re capable of becoming at it?
Would you accept that from your students or athletes? Of course not.
Yet, you feel you know all that you have to know, that you don’t need to keep learning?
I know. There are other methods of learning, like videos, clinics, conferences, podcasts, and talking to & watching other leaders lead.
I agree. Those are all great ways to learn more about leadership and team-building. If that is how you truly believe, are you availing yourself of all of those opportunities every chance you get?
But even if you are learning from those methods, you’re missing a HUGE wellspring of knowledge to help you grow as a leader if you’re not reading.
“But What Should I Read?”
There are a variety of things you can read. You can start with some quick reads like magazine articles, blog posts, online articles, and essays. Those are great ways to get started down the path of reading to lead.
But ultimately, books are the best medium to be reading to grow and develop as a leader/coach. Books offer much more variety in their ideas compared to shorter articles and posts. Books give you a chance to dive deep, explore, and enrich your mind and your ability to learn and then lead to the best of your capabilities. They will help you stretch, grow, and develop more than any other medium.
Maybe your next question is, “What exactly should I read?”
While I will eventually be offering you some specific titles to read (more on that at the end of the post), there are thousands of books on Leadership, Coaching, & Team-Building out there. Do a Google or Amazon search for books on those topics, and you will be given a multitude of options.
But focus most on those kinds of books—leadership, team-building, communication—as opposed to books on strategy and technique for your sport. While the strategy and techniques for your sport are extremely important, and you will struggle to succeed if you don’t know those elements, they aren’t focused on helping you become a better leader and builder of teams. They may offer you a chance to win more contests by using the new strategies, but they won’t teach you about serving your team members, building relationships, dealing with challenging personalities, overcoming adversity, and handling the other elements that go into being a leader.
Listen to Them
Another great way to read books is not to actually read books but to listen to them. That’s right – I’m talking about audiobooks.
The audiobook market has exploded in the last 5-10 years. A variety of reasons for its growth exist, but one of the biggies is that you can listen to audiobooks while doing other things.
As we continue to pile more and more activities and responsibilities on people, they feel like their time to pursue other interests is shrinking more and more. One of those other interests is reading. So, many people listen to audiobooks while working out, doing the dishes, working in the yard, driving, and many other times when they don’t need to be so laser-focused on the task at hand.
It’s hard to use your eyes and focus on reading a book when you are doing all of those other types of activities, but it’s easy to have earbuds in and be listening to an audiobook while doing them.
Because of that, I have found audiobooks to be a GREAT way for me to read a lot more books.
A few years ago, when I wrote out my goals at the end of December for the following year, I started setting goals for numbers of books to read. In 2018 & 2019, my goal was 24 books – 2 per month. I achieved more than that goal both years, reading 33 in 2018 and 35 in 2019.
(Yes, I keep track of the books I read. I have a Word Doc in a file on my computer where I write the name and author of every book I read or listened to for that year, along with the medium I read it in.)
In 2018, I only read books, and in 2019, I only read them until September. That’s when I downloaded the Chirp app on my phone that I told you about earlier this year. Chirp is a free audiobook app that alerts you when books go on massive discounts. (Yes, I’m cheap that way, and if you sign up by clicking here, you will get 20% off your first order, and I will get 20% off my next one – a win for both of us!)
Once I started listening to books, as well as reading them, it became easier to hit those goals. More important than the goals, though, I was learning all kinds of stuff that I wouldn’t have learned without listening to/reading those books. In 2020 I raised my goal to 36 books, and I actually read/listened to 40 of them.
For this year, my goal is 48 books for the year. I just hit #30 yesterday with a little over four months left in the year. I am almost done reading one book and listening to another one. I am on pace to achieve my goal if I average four books for each of the last four months of the year. It would be hard to achieve my goal this year if I wasn’t listening to audiobooks
Are all of the books I read/listen to leadership and team-building books? No.
Most are some type of self-help, leadership, or communication/writing books. Some are fictional stories which are great breaks from the non-fiction books focused on teaching lessons (and many of them actually teach leadership lessons, too). But all of them are good to increase my knowledge and capacity for improvement at life.
“So How Do I Start, Scott?”
I don’t have a specific answer for you on that one. My best advice is to figure out what you’re interested in that could help you grow in some capacity and start there. When you finish that book, try something else. Ask friends for suggestions. Talk to fellow coaches and see what they suggest.
Here’s another idea. Click here to be taken to my “40 Books in a Year” post from January. Scroll down the post and check out the list of books I read last year that is at the end of the post. See if you find some of those intriguing.
Or… here’s another thought that I have been kicking around for a while.
Would you be interested in having me start a Book Club for Coaches?
I think it could be pretty cool to do. Every time I read a great book that can help me with leadership, team-building, and communication (like Angela Duckworth’s Grit that I am reading right now), I constantly highlight sections and think about how much I want to talk about or write about some of the things in it. I know other people feel the same way, too, about a lot of what they read.
And so I thought, “How can I do that for coaches/leaders?” One answer that came to me was, “How about starting a Book Club?”
While I have never been in a book club (let alone run one), I have been an English teacher for 20 years. I have experience leading discussions on books from doing it multiple times a day for all those years.
I would pick out a great leadership/team-building/coaching type of book that we would all read. Each week we would have a certain number of chapters to read, and on one evening, we would do a Zoom call. I would lead a discussion on the chapters in the book for that week.
A club like this this would be a great way to help us grow and develop and become better leaders for our kids. The information from the books would be great, but the ideas from fellow coaches would make it that much better. I think it would be probably be pretty fun, too.
If you would be interested in having me start a Coaches’ & Leaders’ Book Club like this, leave a comment down below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we have enough interest, I will start formulating a plan.
I look forward to hearing from you and creating another venue to help us all become better leaders!