Leaders are Readers

I have heard this statement made many times over the years from various well-known motivators, including Jim Rohn, John Maxwell, Earl Shoaff, and Dave Ramsey.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry S. Truman

Reading is a great way to increase your knowledge on a variety of topics, from Aardvarks to Zymurgy and everything in between.  Some people claim they don’t have time for reading nor do they need to – they value street smarts over book-smarts.  Although street smarts definitely come in handy, for most of the world, life happens in offices, cubicles, conference rooms, living rooms and a myriad of other places where having more than just street smarts is critical.  So, unless you’re goal is to live on the streets you’re going to want to add some book smarts to your knowledge banks.  I don’t recall hearing (or reading about) many successful doctors, lawyers, or business men and women that got where they are by not cracking open a few books – and often far more than a few.  Most successful people in the world today obtained a lot of their knowledge from books.  If it is important enough to remember or share it ends up in book.  Of course now days it may also end up in a Website, Blog or E-paper.

I read all types of materials including the above various formats as well books on kindle, I books and an occasional newspaper or periodical.  There is so much available reading material, that I quite often will get reading overload with a stack of unread printed articles and books waiting for my attention.  My thirst for knowledge does not end up with just reading though.  Modern technology has brought us a multitude of audio options that include audio books, iTunes, YouTube, and seminars on DVD and CD.  I often have trouble finding a place where I can sit and stay focused without exterior distractions long enough to watch a DVD, so I will RIP the audio to mp3s to listen to when I have time, like while driving, at the gym, bike rides or walks.  My book shelf on Shelfari is full of a variety of my favorite non-fiction topics for learning as well as some sci-fi and mystery for my entertainment reading.  Unfortunately many of these books are on my ‘Plan to Read’ section which gets bigger every week.   Add to this, that it seems as I am getting older, I am finding I desire to read even more.  My quest for knowledge is seemingly unquenchable – I have realized though that focusing is critical.  So, this year, as part of my resolutions I finally decided to take a more organized approach to my reading and develop a reading plan.  My reading plan for 2012 has topics based on things I desire to learn more about and backup for things I blog about.  Currently I have 16 books in my plan to read by the end of this year with a minimum goal of 12.  This may be tough considering all the other non-book reading that I do regularly, but I will see how it goes and adjust next year’s plan accordingly.

Although I have been a reader my whole life, my reading has typically been technical books,  periodicals, websites and e-papers on an as needed basis for school or work.  Developing a reading plan has never been a focus in the past, so I had to do some research.  Someone out there has got to have already worked this out, so I figured I would start with Google and see where it got me.

From various sources, I put together the following guide for creating a Reading Plan:

A good starting point for any reading plan is to know how many books you intend on reading during the course of your plan.  Since developing a reading plan is a form of a goal, you can apply the SMART goals process to it.  If you already know your topics, list them out (specific), by setting a time frame and a quantity of books, your reading can be ‘measured’.  Do you want to read one book a month or one every two weeks, are the books novels or short stories, consider this when setting your final quantity to determine what level is going to be truly ‘attainable’.  Be ‘realistic’ – you know your schedule and current reading habits, and you probably want to push it a bit unless you are already an avid reader but just need a plan.  Establish a time frame for your reading plan; ‘3 months, over the summer’, 6 months, or a year – this gets a committed time frame in place.  Keep in mind that is not critical if you read all the books you have on your list, but having a SMART plan should get you well on your way to your ultimate  reading goal.


Depending on the ultimate goal of your reading plan like general knowledge, specific topics or just additional reading you may have only a few or you may have many topics.  The wider the variety, the broader your knowledge will become.

Common Topics / Categories:

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Money & Finance
  • General Business
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Health and Fitness
  • Personal Growth
  • Fun / Entertainment


If you do not have a specific topic/category you are trying to grow in, this is the step where you can list books that you may be interested in reading.  Start with books you may already own but have not read, ask friends for recommendations, check out books mentioned in magazines, blogs or newsletter articles.  Check out lists of bestsellers on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles or your favorite local book store.  Another good resource is Shelfari.  Setup a Free account and start researching.

Here you want to start sifting through your brainstorm list and picking the most important ones you wish to read. Your goal is to end up with a list that is equal to about 75% of the total number of books you want to read during the upcoming year (or remainder of the year). I have seen where individuals will have anywhere from 6 to 24 books a year and some even more.  That may seem like a lot books to you if you’re not already an avid reader.  You may be surprised with just how many books you can actually read.  Also keep in mind that as your time frame passes, you may find even more books that you wish to add.

Record your Completed Books:
Once you have the plan in place you can start a list of all of the books you have completed. I keep my list in Shelfari.  I can actually put my ‘Read’, ‘Plan to Read’, etc.. and when your finished reading your books, you can actually include notes and ratings.

Keep track of Other Books to Read:
Throughout the year you will naturally hear about other books that you may like to read. You need to develop a system to keep track of books that you are interested in.  I use my Amazon Wish list for this which I can share with others around my birthday and holidays. : )

Below is a blank form I used to summarize  my categories and create my final reading plan.

Reading Plan

It is important that you get reading, so get your reading plan started today.



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