Napoleon loved books so much that he commissioned a special travelling library to take with him on campaigns. To be printed as small as possible, the emperor requested one thousand books including: “forty works on religion, forty dramatic works, forty volumes of epic and sixty of other poetry, one hundred novels and sixty volumes of history, the remainder being historical memoirs of every period.”
Today’s business leaders are just as broad in their tastes. Jeff Bezos has named Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day as an inspiration, while Bill Gates recommends Harari’s ‘history of humankind’ Sapiens. Oprah Winfrey, whose book club reaches millions, credits The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav with helping her to set a course for her mould-breaking success. The book’s core principle “is literally what saved and changed the trajectory of my living,” Winfrey said.
Reading can seem like a solitary activity, at odds with the interpersonal work of leadership. In fact, books are designed for sharing: ideas, insights, experiences, hypotheses, perspectives, and of course also failures. In fact, reading can even be a key element of innovation: according to what he dubs ‘the five-hour rule’, Michael Simmons argues that a key habit of successful people is to spend five hours a week on reading, reflecting and experimenting.
At Potential Squared, reading is central to our work. We read to help us reflect on and develop our practice, and we encourage our clients to do the same. We believe that leading is about looking ahead, about imagining the unknown and keeping alive its possibilities. Napoleon famously said that “a leader is a dealer in hope”, or in other words a storyteller, as our CEO Colin discussed in a recent blog.
Join us in our new book club on leadership. Each quarter, we’ll share a book that has informed and inspired us and invite you to join a moderated meeting to discuss it. This is a new experiment for us so we invite your feedback as well.
And to get the ball rolling, we’re sending free copies of the first book to the first five people who sign up.