Leaders Are Readers–And Not Just of Books

That old adage floats around leadership circles a lot: “leaders are readers.” A Forbes article from 2012 reminds us of the importance of leaders reading various types of literature to stay sharp and focused:

If you’re one of those people who claim you don’t have time to read, then first, I question why you’re reading my measly little article. Second, I encourage you tomake time. Time never “appears” for anything; you have to make it. If nothing else, learn how to multitask. Listen to content while driving or walking to work (I suggest “This American Life” and “Intelligence Squared” on NPR – I’m obsessed with both). If you don’t have time to read an entire book, read short articles online. If you’re dying to read a book but honestly can’t find the time, then pair up with a friend and take turns reading and sharing the ideas through short descriptions, or find excerpts of the book online.

If you are a leader, you should be striving to develop knowledge to improve yourself, your company, and the people who work for you. To do anything less is to shortchange your ability to lead.

I couldn’t agree more. Leaders should read a mix of biblical, theological, spiritual, missional, and leadership books that deal with the mind, the heart, and the Great Commission work God’s called us to do.

But leading is more than just the reading of books. Seminary students find this out quickly the moment they set foot on their first ministry setting.  You’ve got to learn to read people!

  • Personality types:  Try to understand different personality types such as sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, and melancholy. At first, you could encourage them to take a personality test, but soon you’ll be able to spot what type of personality they have by their words, mannerisms, and the like.
  • Introvert or extrovert:  The difference? Some charge their inner batteries by being with people, while others recharge by alone time.  Both have great value in the Kingdom.  Both most certainly can be people persons. But understanding how God has wired both camps will go a long way.
  • Spiritual gifts:  1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Peter 4 and Romans 12 lay out the types of spiritual gifts. While a plethora of spiritual gifts tests exist, the best way is to help your people try different ministries and see what ‘sticks’ with them, where they flourish best. This takes time, love, patience, and discipling–but the time is well worth it.

There’s more, but I’ll close with this.  Nothing matters unless you love your people in the first place. More than one seasoned pastor has told me to spend the first year in ministry loving your people and ‘reading’ them. That way, you’ve gained their trust so they know you’re not trying to lord over them, but to walk with them.  That’s what shepherds do!

So, church leaders, read those books.  Keep your mind sharp, focused, and filled with good things.  But also take time to read your people, rather than expecting them to spend their time reading and heeding you.  Read your people well!

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