Leaders are Readers...sometimes

I recently read another respected leader who was touting the idea that “Leaders are Readers”. The general idea is that all great men and women leaders are reading about new ideas, ways of improving themselves and their businesses. So, why would I have a beef with this noble, and frankly, right idea, the fact is my own father used to repeat this phrase to me growing up.

Here’s where it falls short. The statement is missing over 60% of the population (depending upon what research you look at) which are audible and kinesthetic learners.

Visual learners are readers and often fit well into the mainstream education programs. They make up 30-40% of the population and for these folks, the statement is bang on. They love books, understand their importance, and find it relatively easy to read.

Audible learners make up 30-40% of the population. Audible learners are just that, they learn by listening. They may struggle with picking up a book but will listen to talk radio, podcasts and audible books. They can, and will read, it’s just not easy and they retain things better when listen to a book. Sadly this group often feel somewhat ‘less’ than other leaders because they don’t fit the norm.

I worked with a CEO who had only read one or two leadership books in his business lifetime. As we chatted it became apparent that he was an audible learner. He had a 40 min daily commute and soon we had him devouring great leadership books while driving. At last count he had gone through 16 books and was applying many of the principles with great impact.

Kinesthetic learners learn by ‘touch’ or better understood, ‘doing’. Think of those people who never read the manual but just dive into building something and learn as they go. Again they may have not done well in typical study programs but thrived once they were able to ‘learn on the job’. A close friend of mine never finished grade 12 but went to trade school for welding at 23. He eventually started his own company and has built a solid multi million dollar business over time.

So, “leaders are readers ... and listeners and doers” but most of all “Leaders are Learners”. What type of a learner are you? 

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