The value of reading cannot be overstated, especially for those in leadership positions. In a world engineered by 30-second news clips, Instagram stories, and 280-character assaults, reading is the perfect escape. While books are not a perfect teaching vehicle in and of themselves, they are penny-for-penny one of the best investments one can make towards their accrual of knowledge and wisdom. But, this wisdom is not gained through history books or management books alone.
Reading fiction is more than just escaping into an alternate reality, getting lost in the lives and adventures of others, or a method for calming the mind before going to sleep. Reading fiction is an excellent means for gaining one of the key traits of good leaders: empathy. Being able to put yourself in others’ positions, to feel what they’re feeling, think what they’re thinking—what author Robert Greene refers to as thinking inside others—is paramount to being an effective leader. Reading books like David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest will help someone understand addiction and mental illness better than any textbook or psychology class could ever come close to. Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano give you deep insight to what someone can feel when they lose the feeling of value in their life and work.
Cultivating an intuitive understanding of lives other than your own can only help in making you a more effective leader. A leader who is not only obeyed but is respected and appreciated. Get outside yourself, get outside the popular management and pop-psychology books and dig into some fiction. Expand your world and become better at thinking inside.