Why CEOs Read Books

Why is always an interesting question. The answer — not so much.

Here is an interesting statistic: Fortune 500 CEO, on average, read 4 to 5 books a month! Regular Joe’s statistic is less than 1 book a year. Why do leaders who spend most of their time interacting with others spend time reading books? Is there anything more than the obvious- knowledge is power? I think it has got to do with words like rapport, credibility, trust — building blocks of human relationships — be it in sales, career management and even leadership. Let me explain.

The 2X2 window above was inspired by the work of two psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (Joe+ Harry =Johari), whose work focused on self-awareness. There is something precious (incidentally, that is meaning for Johari in Swahili) about this approach — namely having “you” and “others”, in one view. Why restrict this great idea to just self-awareness? In an expanded form, it can be a cornerstone of human relationships and success.

Common Ground: Helps build Rapport

Have you ever wondered why you connect with some folks and not others — there is something they said that resonates with you and vice versa. Common ground is the fertile ground to understand others and be understood based on common shared knowledge, history etc. Common ground helps build rapport with others. The biggest trap is to dwell on this too long during conversations. In sales, there is a phrase that sums up this risk of overstaying the welcome–“show up and throw up”. Nevertheless, common ground is one window that can help you connect/build rapport with others.

Your Endearing Humility+ Your Value for Others: Helps Builds Credibility

Creating rapport is one thing, building credibility is a whole new ball game. It first involves a unique combination of humility and curiosity to seek information. The world is full of problem solvers, but the best ones do not have pre-conceived notions on what problems to solve. These folks frame questions to SEEK answers- answers that help frame problems, if any. Questions can range the spectrum: What are some of your business challenges?(sales) to How am I perceived? (career)

Based on the needs assessment of others, the second half of credibility build is giving valuable advice, insights and solving problems relevant to others.

Bringing it all together, “trust” the embodiment of great human relationships is built through time with multiple and relevant give (your value for others) and seek (your endearing humility to be curious) and consistent follow-up.

Insight: Secret of Fortune 500 CEOs

Now, let us re-look at the window again in the context of why CEOs read a lot. Common ground provides impetus to build rapport. The more we SEEK and GIVE, it helps EXPAND common ground. The bigger the common ground, greater the odds of building rapport and eventually trust. It becomes like the circle of life. Expanding common ground is key. No wonder, perpetual and curious learners are successful. Many great leaders, like Abraham Lincoln, were voracious readers. The Fortune 500 CEO’s, implicitly or explicitly, understand this self propelling cycle.

What are your views? I would like to hear your thoughts in the comment section to help expand my common ground.

Where does this all leave Einstein Corner?

Einstein Corner:

The best word to sum up this window is “Vision” — dream of the idealist in you. Einstein connected theories that no man had done before. Steve Jobs dreamed of an intimate relationship between us and technology. When they set themselves on that trajectory, neither they nor the world knew, how it would eventually pan out. It is a corner to dream big and as we figure things out in this window, it also expands the common ground which is wonderful all around.

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Stories to fuel your mind. Theme: life’s hidden treasures in plain sight. Goal: Warm tone, solid content, crisp stories. About me: one google search away.

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