Reading is Leading


he closest thing to a silver bullet for growing and developing as a leader? 

A reading habit is often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can deepen problem solving skills, innovation, emotional intelligence, personal communication and even improve our well-being.

Reading for Critical Thinking

Studies have shown that reading makes you smarter. It’s one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information.

But the benefits of reading extend beyond just learning new things. Reading expands our problem solving and critical thinking skills. Research by Anne E. Cunningham compared the general knowledge of readers and television watchers. The readers not only knew more, reading improved their judgment, their critical thinking skills and their problem solving abilities.

Reading for Innovation

Many leaders claim that reading across fields is good for innovation. Leaders who can capture insights from other fields and apply them to their organization are more likely to innovate and come up with creative solutions. The case for “irrelevant reading,” or going outside your field to spark new thoughts and make fresh connections, has been a longstanding strategy for innovation.

Reading for Better Communication

Reading can also make you more effective in leading others. Reading uniquely expands your vocabulary, making you a more precise and articulate communicator. Allowing you to use words that are more persuasive and motivate the kind of behavior you want. Even better news is that this expanded language proficiency transfers to increased skill in public speaking and writing.

Reading for Empathy

Empathy is a vital leadership skill for motivating teams, fostering alignment, and creating the kind of organizational culture where people are highly productive. Stories give us an opportunity to walk in other people’s shoes and see the world through their experiences. The insights about human nature in fiction and poetry can make all the difference in expanding your ability to empathize, understand, and relate to your colleagues.

Reading for Relaxation

Reading can help us restore ourselves. It is an antidote for stress and burnout. One study compared reading to other stress relievers like walking, listening to music, or drinking a cup of tea. Reading was found to be the most effective, and it worked in as few as six minutes.

People ask me all the time, “How do you have the time to read all that you do?” And I always think to myself, “How do you not?” I can’t think of another single activity that has been more essential to my personal and professional growth.

So crack open a book, download a report, cruise over to the library. I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

Amy Varga

Amy Varga


Amy Varga is a beloved fundraising trainer, coach and consultant. She and her team at The Varga Group have guided over a hundred nonprofit clients to raise millions of dollars through their services in capital campaign counsel, major gifts training, leadership coaching, and board development projects.