Read to lead

As the holidays approach, it’s a great time to sit back and reflect on what I’ve learned this year, and where I’ve learned it from. More often than not I do my reading on my iPad. I read a lot of global affairs magazines and like to look over a range, whether it is The Economist, The New Yorker or the FT, or websites such as The World Post.

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When I do sit down with a book, it is often to dip in and out of it as I travel, or when I’m sat having a quieter moment on Necker. In these moments, I pick a favoured armchair with a view of the ocean, and grab a cup of tea.

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I also make sure to have a trusty notebook beside me (in this case with a rather festive pen!), to write down anything that jumps off the page at me. I get lots of ideas from my reading – in fact, you may have seen some of my blogs over the year based around some of these books.

Having written a book on leadership, The Virgin Way, I do believe you can pick up lessons in leading from the written word. While I’ve never been an avid reader of leadership books in general, books such as Alastair Campbell’s Winning and Richard Reed’s If I Could Tell You Just One Thing are filled with useful tips. They highlight tangible lessons from a diverse range of interesting people, and I like to read a chapter every now and then to get inspired.

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The same can be said of Matthew Syed’s Black Box Thinking, which highlights the need for a growth mindset in life. It advocates for changing attitudes towards failure, and understanding that the only way we learn is by trying things and altering our behaviour based on the results. It’s an attitude we found incredibly valuable during my highlight of the year, completing the Virgin Strive Challenge.

I couldn’t resist sneaking in a book I contributed to, Ending The War On Drugs, simply because it brings together such a smart group of experts to explain why global drug policy reform is so important. Attitudes towards treating drugs as a health issue, not a criminal problem, are changing fast. Anyone who reads this book will understand why.

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Finally, I wanted to include an older book that has been on my bookshelves for decades, and is a less obvious example of reading to lead. John Steinbeck took a road trip with his dog Charley for company across the length and breadth of the US, and recorded what he saw, who he met and what he learned.

With his inimitable charm, it opens your eyes to the small pleasures of life, and the great wonders of humanity in the little moments that matter. Less a direction on how to lead, you could see it as a subtle guide on how to live.

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Well, they are five books I’ve read in 2016 that have helped shape my perspective on leadership. What would you include on your list? Sit down with a notepad and a cuppa, and let me know.

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