Bill Taylor of Fast Company magazine said, "The only sustainable form of business leadership is thought leadership."
So where do you get exposed to new ideas? Reading is a great place to start. Some suggestions:
- Professional literature. You want to be a sail rather than an anchor, but you can only push your organization forward if you know what direction that is. A key cause of inertia is out-dated thinking.
- Biographies. You can learn a lot by reading about people like Dwight Eisenhower and Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks, and you'll be inspired in the process.
- Self-improvement articles. Seems obvious, but you need to challenge your thinking once in a while on the way you set goals, manage time, relate to people, balance your life.
- Fiction. Really. Good fiction will do two things for you, if you read with your brain on: You will learn about conflict (every good story is in some way about resolving conflict) and you'll get a feel for how a certain sub-culture lives.
- History. It's hard to step back from your work and consider how it fits into the grand scheme of things. History helps you see perspective; it's the antidote to navel-gazing.
As you read, in addition to the immediately-useful tip, look for positive character traits that aided success, new ideas on how to do things, the processes that people use to innovate and solve problems, and ways in which others think differently than you do (take the time to wonder why).
There's an added bonus: Reading critically improves your ability to think, to decide what has value and why, to argue for or against concepts.
A Major General I once worked for was fond of saying, "Leaders are readers." That's because readers are thinkers. And it's the thinking part of the job where leaders earn their pay.