Read at Work?

"Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers."-Harry S. Truman

Reading at work and about work has had a major impact on the way I approach my job and my workday. How might reading positively impact your work, and the work of your staff?

Each and every staff member at a small nonprofit is a leader and we need promote their leadership to the best of our ability. Let’s face it, we are just not staff heavy enough, so each staff member needs to lead their work as dynamically as possible. We need each staff person to work efficiently, creatively and effectively. Taking time to read might seem like something we just don’t have time for when every minute counts, but reading is a crucial way to encourage that leadership. Reading can help provide an outlet for new and creative ideas as well as provide a way to help sort through priorities and work out job-related problems. Author Debra L. Langley says “Leaders must immerse themselves in books and become entwined in the words to be able to UNKNOT the complex problems and challenges they face everyday.”

Langley suggests these ideas, along with a few of my own ideas thrown in:

1.     Talk about some of the great books you have read on a daily basis.

2.     Highlight snippets of wisdom from the books you have read.

3.     Add quotes and anecdotes from the books you read to add punch and interest to speeches and meetings.

4.     Share the books you've read by passing them on to someone else you feel may benefit.

5.     Give books as corporate and employee gifts, brand them with stickers and logos if you wish. (Maybe also your board too?)

6.     Start an office library.

7.     Ask employees to include some quotes and anecdotes from a given book in their next presentation.

8.     Prepare a personal development program, highlight key personnel to present the modules and give them the right books to use as source material.

9.     Give book vouchers as target incentives (or professional development $ for books).

10.  Place books in key areas to draw interest and attention and spark discussion points.

11.  Host a book exchange party as your next team building event.


Langley also suggests, “Be seen reading…..not at work of course.”, but I disagree. Be seen reading at work! Show staff and supporters you value taking time to think things through, finding out best practices before making change and that you believe we all need time to focus, regroup and reset.

Need reading suggestions? Here are a few of our favorites:

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

How the Poor Can Save Capitalism by John Hope Bryant

Love Leadership by John Hope Bryant

The House that Love Built by Millard & Linda Fuller

If I Had a Hammer by David Rubel

Forces for Good by Leslie Crutchfield & Heather McLeod Grant

The End of Banking by Jonathan McMillan

Amy Smitter