Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishing, author, and social media guru on Intentional Leadership says, “Leaders are readers.” I completely agree. Leaders read because they are constantly learning, developing and sharing newly found lessons and ideas with others. This is why we at Cameron-Brooks want to instill in candidates a habit of professional development reading in our Development and Preparation Program© while still in the military to become even better military officers and leaders, and continue to lead once they enter Corporate America.
As I travel the country and visit personally with military officers preparing for the transition, I hear a valid and consistent concern about reading: “Joel, my OPTEMPO has been crazy. I am going to work at 6:00 a.m. and getting home at 7:00 p.m. each night. I am exhausted and I need the weekends just to recover.” I completely understand, and I do not see this as an excuse, but rather the reality of the responsibilities and commitments inherent of talented junior officers in today’s military environment.
I have 4 suggestions to help you get more reading done, become an even better officer, research and prepare for a potential transition to a business career.
1. Audio Books. Okay, I know that this is not technically reading, but it is a great substitute and allows you to multitask. Everyone has to drive to and from work. I personally drive 40 minutes a day to work and back when I am working out of our offices, and longer when I am driving to and from airports. This is a great time to listen to audio books.
I recommend Audible.com. They have a great library of books and with a subscription, you get a discount. However, there are other sources, and you can even use CDs. I personally like the digital download because I can take it everywhere and even listen when I am working out.
Because you cannot highlight or take notes when listening to an audio book, I recommend keeping a journal where you can write a few notes and key points of what you learned.
2. “20 Mile March.” I am taking this tip from Jim Collins’ book, Great by Choice, where he makes the point that the steady, reasonable and consistent approach is better than the inconsistent, erratic, aggressive and then slow or no effort approach. To “20 Mile March” your reading, select a set number of pages to read each day. If you pick 5 to 7, which should take you less than 10 minutes, you can finish a book in a month. One positive of this approach is that it allows you to better reflect and digest what you learned.
3. Read part of the book. I personally think that some authors get paid by the amount of pages they write versus the quality of the points and material they produce. I find that many books provide excessive examples and illustrations to support their point. Also, some books have a great content in parts, but not in others.
If the book is not a novel or written in fable or story form, such as Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Lencioni and The Goal by Eli Goldratt, don’t read it like a novel! Instead, I recommend you read the “Introduction,” review the book for key chapters, which are usually the ones in the beginning, but not always. Then, start reading. When you have learned the points, move to the next chapter. I really like John Maxwell’s book, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I read all of the chapters, but I only needed to read the first few pages of each chapter to learn the “Law” and his case for it. Once I did, I moved on.
4. Podcasts. You may not have time to keep up on current events and business news through reading. If this is you, I highly recommend the WSJ This Morning Podcast (http://www.wsjradio.com/WSJAM.html) to get the latest news. Again, this is something that you can listen to while working out and driving to and from work. I also like Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership Podcast (michaelhyatt.com) and Harvard Business Review’s, IdeaCast at (blogs.hbr.org/ideacast/). You can subscribe to all of these through iTunes.
Remember, “Leaders are readers.” I hope this help you read more, and be a better leader.