I always tell my staff that everything good I know or any wisdom I have, I either learned the hard way, or I read it somewhere. (And trust me, you don’t want to learn the lessons that I’ve learned the hard way… reading is a way safer route!)
Reading is our way of learning things the easy way, getting to know people, or exploring the world without ever leaving our seat. Exploring the worlds found within books can improve your competence in some hugely beneficial ways.
Here are eight major benefits reading will have on your leadership abilities.
1. Improved Empathy and EQ
Research has shown that people who read literary fiction—stories that explore the inner lives of characters—show a heightened ability to understand the feelings and beliefs of others. Researchers call what we would call empathy the “theory of mind,” a set of skills essential for building, navigating, and maintaining social relationships.
While a single session of reading literary fiction isn’t likely to spark this feeling, the research shows that long-term fiction readers do tend to have a better-developed sense of empathy toward others.
2. Improved Creativity
Reading broadens our imagination by stimulating the right side of our brain. It literally opens our minds to new possibilities and new ideas, helping us experience and analyze the world through others’ lives.
Neuroscientists at Emory University discovered that reading fiction can improve brain function on a variety of levels. They found that becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. Reading fiction was found to improve the reader’s imagination in a way that is similar to muscle memory in sports.
3. Improved Focus and Concentration
Reading not only improves your brain’s connectivity, but it also increases attention spans, focus, and concentration. If you struggle to focus, reading can improve your attention span.
When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story or in gaining a better understanding of a particular topic—the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing.
Books with better structures encourage us to think in sequence—the more we read, the more our brains are able to link cause and effect.
4. Improved Vocabulary and Communication Skills
Researchers have found that students who read books regularly, beginning at a young age, gradually develop large vocabularies. And vocabulary size can influence many areas of your life, from scores on standardized tests to college admissions and job opportunities.
A 2019 poll conducted by Cengage showed that 69 percent of employers are looking to hire people with “soft” skills, like the ability to communicate effectively. Reading books is the best way to increase your exposure to new words, learned in context.
5. Improved IQ
People who exhibit strong reading skills early in life grow up to be more intelligent. That was the finding of a study published in 2014 that measured the cognitive development of 1,890 sets of identical twins. When two twins shared the same genes and home environments, early reading skills appeared to be the factor that decided which twin would be better at both verbal tests (like vocabulary) and nonverbal tests (like reasoning tests).
6. Decreased Levels of Stress
In 2009, a group of researchers measured the effects of yoga, humor, and reading on the stress levels of students in demanding health science programs in the United States. The study found that thirty minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did.
The authors concluded that thirty minutes of one of these techniques can be hugely beneficial to anyone’s schedule.
7. Improved Writing Skills
A well-read writer has a better vocabulary, recognizes the nuances of language, and distinguishes between poor and quality writing. Reading helps us make connections to our own experiences and emotions, so reading makes you a better writer and a better communicator.
Author and writing teacher Roz Morris has a great take on this. “Reading exposes us to other styles, other voices, other forms, and other genres of writing. Importantly, it exposes us to writing that’s better than our own and helps us to improve. Reading—the good and the bad—inspires you.”
8. Improved Memory
When you read a book, you are often required to remember an assortment of characters, sub-plots, nuances, and details in general. Thankfully, if you’re interested in the story or subject, this is a fairly easy task for your brain.
The perk to this ability? With each new memory you create, your brain both builds new synapses and strengthens existing ones. These neurological pathways help your short-term memory recall, and they can also help stabilize your moods!
This article was adapted from the book, The Self Help Book, written by Jared Graybeal. Jared is an NASM-certified personal trainer, behavioral change specialist, and owner of Superfit Foods (a healthy, subscription-based, fully customizable meal prep company) and E3 (a business consulting and marketing agency).