The Importance of Reading for Leaders

By | January 6, 2020

[January 6, 2020]  It should be profoundly evident that reading for leaders is essential.  Reading is vital for the development of the mind by introducing new ideas and ways of doing things.  Leaders, in particular, gain from an assortment of thinking methodologies.  Such methods are why we often say that when a leader thinks, it is not in a straight line.

Over the past five years or so, technological advances have made reading from, say, a book or magazine less problematic.  For example, with access to the Internet comes a variety of podcasts, audiobooks, and videos (e.g., YouTube), and given a useful search feature, such social media has made the exploration of new ideas far easier.

There is, however, a downside to reading and listening to social media.  There is no discussion.  No back and forth dialogue produces a better understanding of ideas that are complex and have a long history.  Such a disadvantage is neither fatal nor unattractive as a source of learning.  A new step in the future may hold this final frontier of education, but we have not yet arrived.

As Professor Jordan Peterson puts it, “A book is like a portrait,” where there is layer upon layer of ideas.  The picture remains the same, but there is greater depth in a book.  It allows you to think and rethink, read and reread.  It is much easier to go deeper into the meanings of the book’s author, especially as compared to any other medium.

Each medium comes with advantages and disadvantages.  That is why I advocate for a multitude of sources.  People cannot read a book or watch a video while driving a vehicle.  They can listen to a podcast or an audiobook while traveling.  Such mediums have an advantage over television, which has far less time to deliver an idea and are packed with oversimplifications and omissions.

The famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once wrote that “Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.”  Both the efficiency of our earthly duties and contentment of our minds demands that we error in private when reasonable.  Reading is the method by which we can distort, reshape, and come to understand what the purpose of our calling as leaders are about in those duties.

A twisted path to the understanding of ideas is a path that never follows a straight line.  That is why reading is so important to leaders.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “The Importance of Reading for Leaders

  1. Janna Faulkner

    Frequently overlooked are the smallest of things we take for granted. Reading is one of them. Many before us considered reading to be the ultimate in human achievement and yet today so many of us see it as something to just throw away like trash. We value it not highly.

    1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      Yes Janna, I do believe you are right about this. Historically, folks couldn’t read (for a variety of reasons) but now when we have the teaching of reading as an everyday event, we reject it as something unimportant.

      1. Wesley Brown

        Good points, Janna and Bill. Thanks. Gen. Satterfield has certainly highlighted some key ideas in our society lately that should be looked at a little closer.

  2. Max Foster

    Reading stands as an obvious skill that we all need. Whether for pleasure, learning, or to occupy our time, reading has advanced every society that emphasizes its importance. Thank you Gen. Satterfield for reminding us of the obvious when our society downplays it significance.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      …. and too many are willing to give it up because they believe it is of no use or is only for the elite. Sick minds we are encouraging these days.

  3. Darryl Sitterly

    General Satterfield, great article on reading. I too started my life out being discouraged to read and, also, to think. On my own, with a little encouragement from my uncle (who was a soldier in the Korean War), i slowly came to the realization that reading and improving my reading skills, was the only way to success and happiness. ?

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Besides teaching history and coaching football, I emphasize the practicality of reading to all my students. This is what primary and secondary education is about. If students are not shown the tools for adulthood, they will never pick it up.

  4. Tom Bushmaster

    To read honors those who came before us and helped build that capability into our culture. Some cultures do not have it and have failed. Others, like the West (there are others) have this as a tradition. Schools today in our modern world have lost that tradition and no longer show the value of reading.

    1. Roger Yellowmule

      Yes, sad but true. Some parts of the US there are young people who are told that reading is part of the patriarchical society and thus racist. Imagine that, how stupid. Good comment, Tom.

      1. The Kid 1945

        Part of the liberal/progressive movement. Keep the people stupid and you can control them. Why not, you are better than the masses are anyway. Just look at Stalin. He remains the patron saint of the new Marxists/Socialists in America.

      2. Dale Paul Fox

        The dumbing down of America. Oh, heard that somewhere before.

    2. Eric Coda

      I like your thinking here Tom. It is true that in the past, only the elite were taught to read and write. Those today who give up the ability to read and write (and I mean this in a thorough way) are losers bigtime.

  5. Army Captain

    The importance of reading as a military officer can never be overstated. There are simply too many lessons that are taught us thru the pages of text books on battles and logistical successes and failures that must be read to fully understand. I keep a book by my bedside and read at least 10 minutes before turning out the lights.

    1. old warrior

      This is all part of being technically and tactically proficient. Reading helps us get there. By doing so we as leaders build trust and confidence in those who follow us.

  6. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    My sister used to say that reading is for suckers. Why read when you can watch tv,,,, she used to tell me. Well folks, she was wrong. I slowly gained back my reading confidence and now regularly read books, info off the Internet, etc. I’m better for it, I think anyway and my sister has finally come around and gotten interested in American history. She finds reading about it to be satisfying to her.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Good story about your sister, Otto. I think many young boys think the way of your sister. Too bad that they didn’t grow up with parents who showed them the value of reading.

      1. JT Patterson

        Today, many individuals are against reading because they think they are too smart to need it (other than reading the contents of a can of soup). Thanks Yusaf, excellent point.

    2. Autistic Techie

      Thank you Otto. I too had a sister like yours. We both came around to reading once we got into college and realized that without that skill of reading, that you would not survive a year.

      1. Len Jakosky

        Hi Autistic Techie, haven’t seen you on Gen. Satterfield’s blog in a while. Welcome back. All is well here and we’ve gained a few more who make some great comments.


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