How to Read Effectively to Deliver Powerful Leadership

Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.

As a boy in elementary school, I remember with fondness the Weekly Reader Club, a newspaper of sorts as well as an opportunity to buy books. My parents, especially my dad, were always happy to accommodate my asking for books to buy and bring home.

I recently gave new meaning to that idea, creating a Wednesday Weekly Reader series, in which I post a portion of the SUMS Remix book summaries I create as Vision Room Curator for Auxano.


Reading is my passion – but I don’t just read for reading’s sake.

The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.

Al Mohler


Reading, for me, is a chance to have an ongoing conversation with the author. The image above, taken from a new addition to my reading list, reflects the inside cover of almost every book in my library.

  • The large green Post-it® notes are for writing down important ideas from my reading of the book.
  • The smaller yellow Post-it® notes are for bookmarking important ideas in the pages of the book itself.
  • The four symbols are my “shorthand” for use while reading, indicating additional action needed.
  • I also usually highlight sections in various colors.
  • And on occasion, I will write longer notes in the margins.

When I’m finished with a book – particularly one that has really engaged me and caused me to think – the result looks something like this:


I’m an active reader, working on becoming a more critical thinker, which will help me become a better leader.

What – and how – are you reading?


Reading the Year Out

Leaders are readers.

Today and tomorrow’s posts are an annual tradition at 27gen – all about reading and my favorite books of the year. Here are a few links to previous year’s posts – click and follow the link for a few thoughts on the importance of reading – and how to read!

Reading 101

Getting the Most Out of Reading

Put Down the Duckie

Read to Lead

When You Find a Leader, You Find a Reader

Thomas Edison on Reading

Reading Requires Deliberate Practice

I Read to Cheat Old Age – What About You?

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He and my mother insisted we go to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful to my dad for.

I enjoy books as a multisensory experience – you not only read the words on a page, you feel the binding and turn the pages, hear the crackle of a very old book being opened for the first time in a long time, and then there’s that “book” smell – a combination of age, dust, maybe a little dampness – but all telling you an adventure is waiting.

For books connected with my role as Vision Room Curator, I use the margins to have a conversation with the author – writing comments, questions, and references to other books. I also use Post-It notes to mark certain sections. Marking in books was definitely a “no-no” in school, but I have found the practice to be a great help to me in experiencing the book.

Although I’m an early adopter in almost everything else, it’s just that “experience” that has kept me from moving into the eBook world all the way. I’ve been dabbling in eBooks for several years, moving ahead with a Kindle, and I’m glad I did. Having a library at my disposal in one volume has been very rewarding – but I will always be a “book” guy at heart.

So in wrapping up 2014 and looking forward to 2015, you’ll find me with a Kindle in my backpack – and several volumes of traditional books as well!

Next: my favorite books of 2014.

Read Wide, Lead Deep

Just returned from my weekly trip to the library; also in the stack are a few new acquisitions to my library.


It’s a varied list that’s for sure, but I believe that wide reading develops deep leading.

Look for a few short ideas from these books in the next few days.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

–Haruki Murakami

11 Best Books of 2011

Continuing an annual tradition, the final posts of the year are devoted to the importance of reading (covered in yesterday’s post) and my best book list for the year.

Making a “Best of” list is always hard – it’s a very subjective process, driven by my personal tastes, professional needs, and plain curiosity. It’s also hard to narrow it down: in 2011, I checked out 107 books from my local library, purchased 91 print books, and downloaded 37 on my Kindle. I also perused dozens of bookstores on my travels, writing down 77 titles for future acquisition. There were also a lot of late releases that I just didn’t have time to take a look at. Be that as it may, here is my list of favorite books published in 2011.

The Zappos Experience, Joseph Michelli

Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, Howard Schultz

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen

Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, 2nd Edition, Disney Institute

Brilliance by Design: Creating Learning Experiences that Connect, Inspire, and Engage,

Vicki Halsey

The Orange Revolution, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton


The Experience Economy, 2nd Ed, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore

Blah, Blah, Blah, Dan Roam

Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, Reggie McNeal

For the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel, Matt Carter and Darrin Patrick

Practically Radical, William C. Taylor

That’s my list for 2011 – if you are unfamiliar with any of the books listed above, I encourage you to check them out.

The new year is just around the corner, and the book releases are lining up already – I wonder what the Best of 2012 list will look like a year from now?

Reading Right Now…

I’ve always believed that active and diverse reading is a necessity for creative leaders. Really putting in practice this week…

On Optimist’s Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer “What’s Next, by Mark Stevenson

Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Foundation of the U.S. Navy, by Ian Toll

Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Societies, Art, Poetry, and Technology, edited by John Brockman

Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, by Cathy Davidson

Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, by Reggie McNeal

To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City, by Eric Swanson and Sam Williams

AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church, by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

The Case for Antioch: A Biblical Model for a Transformational Church, but Jeff Iorg

Democratizing Innovation, by Eric von Hippel

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas, by Dan Zarrella

The Elements of Cooking, by Michael Rhulman

I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”

I prefer to think of it as creating innovation literacy.