Reading can create a movement, and that means progress and change. Starting and operating a Professional Reading Program stimulates productivity and creativity, continuously recognizing and encouraging leaders and ideas that make an impact in the organization and the community. Just like Benjamin Franklin’s Junto, it’s about a group of people getting together for a common purpose for mutual improvement, knowledge, inspiration, and sensible conversation.
Professional Reading Programs are critical not only to individual development, but also to collective learning and organizational development. A dedicated reading program can be an inexpensive way to build a learning organization.
Reading programs are reading synergy. Synergy is the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements. A simplified definition is: 1 + 1 > 2. We work more effectively and more accurately as a synergetic group. How do we create reading synergy? We do it through a reading program.
Starting a Professional Reading Program begins with a question, “What do you want to get out of this?” It may seem simple, but just throwing a bunch of books out there will have disappointing results. There are thousands of books out there (Amazon has around 57,000 hits for books on leadership). You have to ask yourself how do you narrow down the scope of reading to make it work for your organization?
Why read about leadership?
- Leadership is a life-long journey of discovery.
- Reading about leadership helps us develop a better understanding of the unique challenges we face.
- Reading about leadership helps us learn to apply our experience to our lives and our profession.
The question is not, “Why should we read about leadership?” but “What should we read?”
What should we read about leadership?
- Something to speak to us individually.
- Something to impart a sense of value and traits.
- Something to increase our knowledge and understanding.
- Something to improve our analytical and reasoning skills.
- Something to gain a vision of what we might be as future leaders.
- Stories of other leaders who have faced similar problems.
- Accounts of history’s great leaders for guidance on how to lead people and organizations.
- We should read about our history and culture; about human behavior; about leadership and management, how they’re different and why we need both; and we should read about the wisdom of leadership from other fields, places, and times.
- Something that’s enjoyable and makes us better!
Our about leadership can be organized into the following areas:
- History and Culture: Where we come from and who we are.
- The Human Element: How we think and act.
- Leadership and Management: Why we do what we do, what we strive to be , and how we get there.
- Wisdom: Leadership examples from other fields, places, and times.
In closing ….
As leaders, we’re curious about how to meet the challenges we face. We have a continuous desire to learn more in order to get better; to think and perform better for our family, friends, comrades, and community. Reading opens a window into a world that reveals new ways and thoughts, which makes us more tolerant and more open to ideas other than our own.
Read more and get better!
- Wildland Fire Leadership Professional Reading Program
- The Professional Military Reading List at the National Defense University Library
- US Army Center of Military History Recommended Professional Reading List
- Chief of Staff Air Force Professional Reading Program
- Navy Professional Reading Program