Harry S. Truman is brilliant. He came up with one of the most famous leadership quotes: “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Over the years, this has been shortened to ‘Leaders are readers.’ If you are going to be at the forefront of a movement or responsibility, you have to be ahead of the curve in more ways than one. Reading serves as one of the vehicles that provides this edge. Forbes has this article on the idea. With the desire for more reading and the activation of more leaders, there is a proliferation of literature, physical and electronic. There must be at least 200 books on every leadership theme. Everyone wants to read, therefore everyone writes. And therein lies my fear. With more leaders reading, are we producing more paper-leaders than ever before? Are we activating leaders who have read every book there is, but have no proof of any real-life leadership? Do we have leaders who copy and paste leadership principles and ideas, or worse off, photocopy others people's ideas without giving any thought to how best it applies in their unique contexts? Are we seeing more leaders who know everyone’s good ideas, but have no original thoughts? On the other hand, do we have more leaders who love to theorize, philosophize, blog, vlog, tweet, post, and share, but have no tangible results of practice?
How many times have we seen people pride themselves in the number of books they have read or blogs and podcasts they are subscribed to? And how many times have we seen these same people show tangible fruits of all the words they have heard and read? Fewer times than we might want to admit.
Paper leadership doesn’t transform society. Paper leadership doesn’t change lives. Paper leadership doesn’t lead people in any direction. Paper leadership only makes sense if no action is required. Leadership requires action. It requires moving beyond great theories and philosophies. It requires doing something with what has been read after it has gone through the rigorous crucible of self-evaluation, context appreciation, and practical application. Knowledge doesn’t make sense if it can’t be applied appropriately.
Are you a paper leader? It’s time to put your hands to work to transform great ideas into actions.