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Student reading a book in a coffee shop
Student Tips

Leaders Read

Being a leader means you’re going to run into all sorts of problems you’ve never experienced before. You’re going to face issues with no simple solutions. Fortunately, no matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first to go through it.

For roughly 5,000 years, people have been experiencing, fixing, and, most importantly writing books about these exact problems so why would you waste precious time with trial and error, when solutions can be swiftly found inside a book.

Wherever we are, we can read. On the tube, walking to the office with headphones in and an audiobook on. At night while winding down for bed. These moments should be considered as moments that help our most important and meaningful work. Reading makes you more informed, as an individual and as a leader. Being busy at work or home is not a reason not to read — it’s an argument for why you should.

Another reason to pick up a book: There are meditative, spiritual advantages to the act of reading itself. A study by the American Psychological Association discovered that the psychological idea of imagining scenes while reading can help you establish higher empathy.

But not all reading is created equal. Great leaders have an endless appetite for knowledge, for self-improvement, for wisdom, for books that enhance you as a human. Malcolm X was inspired to become a Civil Rights leader by the books he read during his time in prison. When asked where he went to college, he would just say, “Books.”.

Knowing that I will only be able to read a certain amount of books in my life both saddens me out and leads me to ask: “What books have changed your life?” By asking this question of people, I have discovered loads of books worthy of my time.

We all need to give books more of our time especially books that will stay with us after we put them down. For instance, we can read, in Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ a boldly imagined future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son are each the other’s entire world are sustained by love and gain a real sense of your own mortality.

We can read in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment’ that most of our problems are a fiction created in the mind. Problems are either stressing about something that already happened, or worrying about something in the future that hasn’t happened. If you stop that and focus on what’s going on right now, at this very moment, you could instantly become a more peaceful, happier version of yourself.

Reading is a shortcut — a method to get where you need to be without needing to learn by painful trial and error. As leaders, what we’re reading is leading us.

ISH Favourite Books Recommendations

Alex, Head of Marketing –  The Secret History – Donna Tartt
This book is gripping and sinister. The characters are microscopically examined, and they are immoral, tragic and profound.

Musa, PR & Communications Officer – The Road Less Travelled – Scott Peck
By melding love, science and religion into a primer on personal growth, M. Scott Peck launched his highly successful writing and lecturing career with this book. Even to this day, Peck remains at the forefront of spiritual psychology as a result of The Road Less Travelled.

Jane, Marketing Assistant – This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor –  Adam Kay
Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.

Giulio, Wizard and Multimedia Designer – The Rotters’ Club – Jonathan Coe
Unforgettably funny and painfully honest, Jonathan Coe’s tale of Benjamin Trotter and his friends’ coming of age during the 1970s is a heartfelt celebration of the joys and agonies of growing up.

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