Continuous Learning: A Characteristic of Highly Effective CEOs
Know what you’re talking about: Read!
That line (in fact, the only line in the entire 30 second spot) is taken from a public service announcement which ran on television some years ago. The spot featured a group of young men in a diner having a discussion and although there is no audible dialogue (only background music) it is clear that the discussion/debate is quickly becoming heated and may even come to blows. Just then, another young man walks in, calmly joins the discussion and very quickly, all involved cool down and listen to what must be words of great wisdom. Frowns turn to smiles and nodding of heads, even handshakes. The camera pans in to reveal a paperback novel in our hero’s back pocket, followed by the narrator’s voice intoning “know what you’re talking about: Read!”
The idea of reading as an essential part of a well-developed personal learning system is nothing new. I recall a meeting with my son’s junior high school teacher who commented on how he seemed to be knowledgeable about a variety of subjects. "He reads a lot, doesn’t he?” Yes, he did (and still does).
When interviewing job candidates, I have made it a habit to ask a simple but revealing question: What are you reading? The responses vary but they are always revealing.
In my work with any number of highly effective executives, I’ve noticed something: They read. Business journals, trade publications, business books, history, biographies, novels on a variety of subjects and what I call “wisdom literature” (everything from William James to C. S. Lewis). As busy and stretched for time as they are, they view reading as a needed and welcomed part of their routine and their intellectual development.
In our hurry-up world where “snackable content” and “140 characters” seem to dominate the way in which we consume information, maybe the involuntary slow-down brought on by COVID-19 brings with it a new opportunity. To discover (or re-discover) the importance, value and sheer pleasure of continuous learning that comes, in large measure from reading.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.