Leaders typically have demands on their time that others do not.

Young parents (leading families) find themselves stretched to meet the needs (and wishes) of their children. Volunteer leaders find themselves making phone calls and spending hours organizing and serving. Market-place leaders put in extra time and often find themselves mentally exhausted by the constant decision-making.

readingI don’t have time to read!” some of us say.

It’s entirely understandable. Urgent demands (and the need to just unplug) leave us with little time, energy, or motivation to read. So, we make one of the most common mistakes of leadership. We assume either that we have all the tools we need already, or that we can learn everything we need “on the job.”

In their book An Impractical Guide to Becoming a Transformational Leader, Gilbert and Medcalf write: “There is too much on the line not to read. Not having time to read is like saying you don’t have time to eat or exercise.”

Years ago, I asked a retiring University President for his advice. After his lengthy career as both a megachurch pastor and a University President, I  wondered what he considered most important for my future. Sitting in a small Thai restaurant over lunch, he shared just two pieces of encouragement. One of those: “Read voraciously.” At the time I smiled and politely received the wisdom, but I wrote it off (mostly) as the musings of a PhD in English literature. I was wrong to do so.

Reading is not what we do in addition to leadership. Reading provides a strategic framework for our growth in leadership. The thoughtful writings of others help broaden our horizons and shape our thinking. Good writing provides priceless mentoring. The wisdom of others soothes the soul and nourishes the spirit.

Leaders are readers.

Reading matters as much to the leader as food, exercise, and rest. Many pastors, CEOs, business leaders, and others have made reading optional. It’s our last priority. It’s what we’ll do when we have some time left, but leftover time never comes.

As we launch into 2017 together, I’m delighted you are reading this blog! Thanks for adding this to your leadership reading diet this year. But what else might you resolve to read this year? How about the New Testament? How about a book a month on leadership?

Leaders should understand the value of investment. Reading is not killing time; it’s a profound investment of it. Read alone; read with others; share your reading…and may this year be an extraordinary year of leadership growth for you!

David Timms is Dean of the School of Christian Leadership at William Jessup University.