Leaders are Readers: How to Develop a Reading Plan

Leaders are Readers

I used to hate reading. I avoided it like the plague. I felt like my time could be better spent elsewhere. Over the course of my first year post-college, I did not read one book from cover to cover. It was pathetic.

The average American reads 3-6 books a year. That same average American will also watch about 35 hours of television… this week! That’s 35 hours that could’ve been invested into your own development and growth.

If you want to lead anyone, you’ve got to take that time back.

Maybe you’re not a big reader. Perhaps you’re one of the 27% of Americans who didn’t read a single book last year. That’s ok. You don’t need to become an overnight book-worm.

What you do need, however, is a plan.

Developing a Reading Plan

If you’re going to go from 1 or 2 books a year to 15-20, you’ve got to map out a plan for making that happen.

Set Realistic Goals

Some numbers to consider:

  • The average adult reads at about 300 words per minute.
  • A 200-page book comes in at right around 80,000 words.
  • Using that standard, it takes the average adult reader about 4.5 hours to read a book.

Let’s be liberal with the numbers and say it takes you 7 hours to read a book. That gives you plenty of time to slow down, reflect, take notes, etc.

Take a look at your schedule and see how much time you can carve out for reading each day.

  • An hour a day puts you at 4-5 books a month/52 books a year.
  • A half an hour a day comes out to 2-3 books a month/26 a year.
  • 15 minutes each day means 1-2 books a month/13 books a year.

That’s right. 15 minutes of reading each day will put you on track to read 4 times as many books as the average american reader. Look at your schedule. I promise you that there’s 15 minutes a day in there for you to spend on reading.

Pick the Right Books

You’ve only got so much time to spend on reading. You don’t want to waste that precious time on books that don’t help you grow or at least entertain you. In order to save time, I choose books for my reading list based solely on recommendations from people I know and trust.

That said, here are some excellent books for developing your leadership skills:

These are all affiliate links.

Take Your Time

What matters most is the quality of time spent reading, not the quantity. Use your reading goals as a guideline for staying on track, but not as an oppressive standard. The true goal is for you to retain what you’re reading and to grow.

If that means you need to dial it back from 2 books a month to 1, then do that. The more important accountability piece here is the time spent reading; not the number of books read.

What About Blogs?

I love reading blogs and I love that you read blogs like mine. They’re great. I’ve intentionally left them out of my reading plan, however, because I want my blog reading to be strictly supplemental to my actual reading. My reasons:

  • Books undergo numerous layers of quality control before they get to you.
  • Books are more timeless in nature.
  • Books tend to take a more holistic approach to the topic at hand.
  • Reading a book forces me to focus on one topic and track along with it for an extended period of time.
  • Book reading pulls me away from the ultra-distracting world of my laptop and the internet.

Is reading all that I need to do in order to become a better leader?

I wish.

If it were, I would be the President of the United States. Growing as a leader is a process with many facets and steps. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about intentionally seeking out training from other leaders. Subscribe to my RSS feed so that you don’t miss out.

  1. Be honest. How many books do you read per year?
  2. If you’re not reading as much as you’d like, what do you think is holding you back?
  3. How many books would you like to read this year?


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15 Responses to Leaders are Readers: How to Develop a Reading Plan

  1. Joey Strawn April 5, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Kenny, I’m a huge reader and I love that you wrote this post. I try to read at least 2-3 books a month and always have a fiction book going as well. Reading quality stories and non-fiction alike has proven effects on deduction and writing skills among a host of other benefits, not the least is the pure enjoyment of becoming engrossed in a good story.

    Great post, great thoughts. Well done!

    • Kenny Silva April 5, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Joey. Fiction is a category that I don’t read nearly enough of. You’re absolutely right, though. It has huge benefits. The ability to understand the elements of story are essential to every element of human connection. The best leaders are the best storytellers.

    • Mark McIntyre April 5, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

      Something I learned from my daughter is to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books. I actually do 2 non-fiction to one fiction. In reality, I think I learn more about leadership from the fiction books because in those stories human nature is exposed.

  2. Ddeguara April 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    At least one a month, but this year I created a list of books I wanted to read and joined a Blogging for Books program. I’m on pace to double my reading! Hopefully around 24 books!

    • Kenny Silva April 5, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

      That’s awesome! Congratulations on taking your reading to the next level.

  3. Ddeguara April 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    At least one a month, but this year I created a list of books I wanted to read and joined a Blogging for Books program. I’m on pace to double my reading! Hopefully around 24 books!

  4. Ddeguara April 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    At least one a month, but this year I created a list of books I wanted to read and joined a Blogging for Books program. I’m on pace to double my reading! Hopefully around 24 books!

  5. Alicia April 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Reading Rainbow!

    • Kenny Silva April 5, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

      Yes, ma’am!

      • Alicia April 5, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

        Made my morning to see Levar Burton without any other reference than your topic…. “Take a look…it’s in a book….” used to be a staple of my childhood.

  6. cshell April 5, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    I don’t think I read a book cover to cover after I graduated from college for 15 plus years. Then God broke me, brought me to my knees, showed me my sin how he sees it.

    In the last two plus years, I have cancelled cable and read more books in that time then I have literally read my entire life. I can’t seem to get enough, want to fill my head with wisdom, knowledge, truth.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Kenny Silva April 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

      In completely understand how you feel, Chuck. Right now, I feel like I’m catching up on lost time trying to pull in all of the knowledge that I can find. It’s good, but we do have to make room for reflection and application as well. Good call on canceling the cable. 😉

  7. Anonymous April 5, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    I’ve never really kept track of how many books I read in a year. The number would be high, if only, because I do a lot of reviews.
    I really like how you broke this down, Kenny. It will be very helpful to those who desire to develop a reading plan. It encourages me to recalculate a few things, too. I’ve been in a stressful season of life. It is easy to throw myself in front of the television and surf the net at night rather than pick up a book.
    One of the things you keyed in on was the quality of books we read. Another point for me to ponder. I’m getting to the place where I might need to back off reviewing so much to allow more time to read books of my choice.
    Thanks for recommending some good ones!

  8. Adam April 5, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I try to read 25 to 26 books a year, and that is my goal again this year.
    I love reading and i love the book review programs such as Booksneeze that are out there.

    LaVar Burton rocks!

  9. levittmike July 15, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    I’ve recently started a new job, where I take the subway into work.  It gives me an opportunity to read for about 90 minutes per day, which will definitely put a dent in my “books to read” pile.

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