22 Mar Why all Leaders are Readers
It’s December 7, 1941…
World War II is in full swing. Up to this point, America had managed to stay out of the conflict—at least in any official capacity—since it begin in September of 1939. But then, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) asks Congress for a Declaration of War one day after the attack. However, the man who described the surprise attack as “a date which will live in infamy”, dies in office, a result of a cerebral hemorrhage, prior to the war’s end.
With the world still in chaos, Vice-President Harry Truman is rushed to the White House, where he is sworn in as America’s 33rd President. Truman quickly turns his full attention to the war effort. In the days that follow, he focuses on how the U.S. can defeat Japan. On April 24—twelve days after being sworn in—Harry Stimson, Secretary of War, tells Truman of a secret effort called The Manhattan Project, of which FDR had kept his Vice President unaware. The astonished president was briefed on a new weapon of unparalleled mass destruction—the world’s first atomic bomb.
The President didn’t understand…he even says so. His military advisers got textbooks and taught Truman the basic science that would allow him to grasp how the bomb worked. As he wrestled with science fact and theory, he began to wrestle with the cumbrous decision of what it would mean to unleash its power. As history shows, Truman makes the decision to use the 10,000 pound weapon (Little Boy) on August 6, 1945 over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, the city of Nagasaki is leveled by a second atomic bomb (Fat Man). On August 15, Japanese emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender.
Truman, the former VP who had been kept in the dark…the same man who needed a science lesson to understand the gravity of the weapon now at his fingertips…had all but ended the war in the Pacific. The war would come to its full conclusion in September of 1945 under Truman’s watch.
There’s a point to this history lesson. Truman was famous—among other things—for saying,
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
Cool…but why should all leaders be readers?
Here are a few reasons…
- We can learn from the mistakes of others – Learning from the mistakes of other leaders helps you avoid repeating them. Did you know that as president, Nixon kept a handwritten list of enemies in his desk? Yep. The most powerful man in the world kept a list of enemies. There’s a mistake that today’s leaders can learn from…don’t allow your disdain for others lead to your own downfall. Better still, work hard at not having a disdain for others. Read about presidents, business leaders, and industry trends. You’ll learn why and how leaders do what they do. You’ll also get better at decision making.
- We don’t know it all – Be like Truman…accept the fact that you don’t know everything. Reading allows you to grow. You’ll discover areas in your life that need attention. By reading, you’ll ask better questions and probe for better answers.
- We need new ideas – Reading keeps your mind open to new ideas. Leaders must keep their minds fresh. We’re often tempted to think we know all we need to know. Worse still, a bit of success can make us think we have arrived and there is nothing else to learn. Reading keeps us humble by reminding us of the failures of others. It also introduces those new ideas we need to implement.
- We can be better – Reading makes us better leaders, writers, and speakers. As a leader, you will need stories to inspire your team. You’ll find those stories in the lives of other leaders. Leaders do a good bit of writing and speaking—by reading, you’ll improve your vocabulary as well as the unique ability to turn a phrase. Having a story or two at the ready when you’re meeting with a team is also an invaluable byproduct of being an avid reader. Instead of just communicating a key point, reading gives leaders the ability to illustrate it.
Make reading a part of your life as much as eating and oxygen. Feed your brain and breathe in the lessons. Want to be a better leader? Be a reader.
Dear Christian Radio…
1. Read about other leaders. Learn from their successes, failures, and what makes them tick.
2. Read about leadership principles. Gain insights that work. Sharpen your skills.
3. Read to fill your tank as a leader. Collect examples and stories to inspire your team.
Explore Brian on Books Now!