Skip to comments.For Those Who Want to Lead, Read
Posted on 08/20/2012 7:01:25 AM PDT by Future Snake Eater
When David Petraeus visited the Harvard Kennedy School in 2009, one of the meetings he requested was with author Doris Kearns Goodwin. Petraeus, who holds a PhD in International Relations from Princeton, is a fan of Team of Rivals and wanted time to speak to the famed historian about her work. Apparently, the great general (and current CIA Director) is something of a bibliophile.
He's increasingly an outlier. Even as global literacy rates are high (84%), people are reading less and less deeply. The National Endowment for the Arts (PDF) has found that "[r]eading has declined among every group of adult Americans," and for the first time in American history, "less than half of the U.S. adult American population is reading literature." Literacy has been improving in countries like India and China, but that literacy may not translate into more or deeper reading.
This is terrible for leadership, where my experience suggests those trends are even more pronounced. Business people seem to be reading less particularly material unrelated to business. But deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.
Note how many business titans are or have been avid readers. According to The New York Times, Steve Jobs had an "inexhaustible interest" in William Blake; Nike founder Phil Knight so reveres his library that in it you have to take off your shoes and bow; and Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman called poets "the original systems thinkers," quoting freely from Shakespeare and Tennyson. In Passion & Purpose, David Gergen notes that Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein reads dozens of books each week. And history is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers and writers (remember, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in...
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This comment made me chuckle. I was interviewed by a headhunting agency that recruits junior military officers. The interviewer asked me what I read. I listed off a litany of reading interests. "What about business-related stuff?" Well, honestly I didn't read much about that. No sale.
“The interviewer asked me what I read. I listed off a litany of reading interests. “What about business-related stuff?” Well, honestly I didn’t read much about that. No sale.”
Good for you, because the military has become entirely TOO businesslike: everybody wants an MBA, we get force fed TQM/CQI principles ad nauseum and told we need to run the military like a business, and it’s JUST. FLAT. WRONG.
“...the military has become entirely TOO businesslike...”
and politically correct. The only reading deemed required are those that deal with the homosexual agenda and holding fire if the enemy is not a shade of pale.
Give a Hoot! Read a Book!
You only need to listen to news announcers, politicians, statesmen and even educators (educated ONLY in their discipline and ONLY enough to get jobs IN their discipline).
The least objectionable faults are idiotic mispronunciations of simple words. The real problem is that fewer and fewer people comprehend empirically basic and long known principles of economics, history, geography, science, language, philosophy, etc.
That these people CAN read is not doubted. However, they are not widely read. And it shows. Reading well enough to determine which toothpaste to buy is hardly adequate if you want to be regarded as a person who is capable either of original and critical thinking or a person who is intellectually resourceful.
“Education... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.”
G. M. Trevelyan
I'd say most people miss what is ‘worth’ reading AND what is ‘necessary’ reading. It's impossible to think of yourself as informed OR knowledgeable without a grasp of the basic information which is routinely omitted from current ‘educational’ programs.
Because he had never seen a plagiarist in the flesh????
Ha! THAT’S rich!
Color me skeptical. "Dozens" would presumably mean at least 24. So the guy reads 3.5 books per day. I seriously doubt it.
I probably read 3.5 books per week, and that's more than anybody I know.
Petraeus is just lining-up his co-author. He has to write his book telling everybody that he really wanted to win, but those bad civilians held him back. Sell it at Arlington.
A co-worker chews through a book a day.
It takes me about 2 days on average, but that’s really good.
I have learned a LOT more from reading than I ever learned in school.
Drive a lot on business, and recently have started listening to CD books. Helps me stay awake and I probably get through one or two additional books a week that way.
Listening to a book is, oddly, quite a different experience from reading it. Even when I’ve read the same book before.
I notice and remember different things. Among other things, I find I notice the writer’s infelicities of style much more when listening.
I just don’t absorb audio books the way I do looking at it on paper (or screen). I’m just a more visual person.
I can sometimes read a book a day, but it depends on the material and the writing style. I can get through a lot of light fiction that fast, but not something on history, which is my favorite subject. I read a lot of historical fiction as well, and while I don’t fly through it, I am faster than with a non-fiction book. Right now, I’m reading a book on the flu epidemic of 1918. It’s 500+ pages (our monthly book club selection). It’s taking me forever! Not because it’s boring, but because it’s just so full of concepts I’ve never read before.
I’ve been a bit slow this summer on my reading, but we’ve had a death in the family, a major storm that caused a lot of damage, a large garden to tend and canning to do, and my father-in-law had a triple bypass just over three weeks ago. I’m hoping after the oldest three kids start school on Wednesday, my days will improve time wise ;)
My 14 year old has read something like 18 books this summer. I can’t remember seeing her read like this before!
What book on the pandemic are you reading? I listened to an excellent one about a year ago, and was blown away by how utterly unprepared we are for a repeat performance.
We think intensive care and modern medicine will always be there when we need it. But the system won’t (can’t) handle many millions of people needing intensive care.
My dad was about 7 at the time, and he told me about watching his father and uncles carry seven bodies out of the neighbors’ home. The whole family had died.
They lived just a few miles from Ft. Riley, where it appears the epidemic first hit large numbers of people.
I just finished listening to a truly excellent book on the Founders, and their accomplishments and failures.
Managed to avoid the Demigods vs. Dead White Slaveowning Males idiotic dichotomy so many historians fall into when dealing with them.
Unfortunately, I have a terrible time remembering the names and authors of books. :)
lol...how did I not catch that?
‘The Great Influenza’ by John Barry is what we’re reading for book club this month.
Too bad you can’t remember the name of the book—one of my favorite areas of history is the country’s founding. I have an eclectic taste in eras of history—I read just about anything I can get my hands on about the Tudor period as well ;)
American creation [triumphs and tragedies at the founding of the republic]
by Ellis, Joseph J.
I’ve heard of that one! I’m going to the library tonight for book club...they have that particular book on the shelf.
I just now found this! Whoever has the ping list, may I be added? PLEEEEEEZEEE???