Reading Does Make For An Outstanding CEO

Sep 04, 2018 1 Min Read


Let me know what you’re reading and I’ll let you know what kind of leader you are.

Well, I may not really have the psychic ability to accurately make that predication, but the books you read and the people you meet will determine where you’ll be in five years.

This thought was programmed into my brain by Dr Towns while I was an undergraduate student.

Successful people love to read 

Reading is part of the lives of the world’s richest and most successful people. Leading chief executive officers (CEOs) acknowledge reading as a differentiator in the crowded climb to the top.

“Successful men, in all callings, never stop acquiring specialised knowledge related to their major purpose, business or profession,” wrote Steve Siebold in his book How Rich People Think.

Based upon a quarter century of interviews with millionaires, he concluded: “Those who are not successful usually make the mistake of believing that the knowledge-acquiring period ends when one finishes school.”


However, the successful have a pastime in common: They self-educate by reading.

Rather than deciding that the learning period of life is over, they accurately attest that learning is life, and there is no better way to acquire knowledge than from the printed page (or e-format).

Walk into a top executive’s home and one of the first things you’ll see is an extensive library of books.

Typically, the library is very personal and a closely guarded part of their lives where it’s rare to be invited in. For example, only a few Nike colleagues ever saw the personal library of the founder, Phil Knight.

To enter the room behind his formal office, one had to remove his shoes and bow: the ceilings were low, the space intimate; the degree of reverence demanded for these volumes on Asian history, art and poetry was greater than any the self-effacing Knight demanded for himself.

A common theme among most of the world’s top leaders is that almost everything they read becomes useful to them, including science, poetry, politics and novels.

They have a lifelong interest in learning, and it doesn’t stop when university is over.

Until the legendary Steve Jobs sold his collection, it remained a secret to most of the world.

He reportedly had an ‘inexhaustible interest’ in the books of William Blake – the mad visionary 18th-century mystic poet and artist. Although his thirst for knowledge was in secret, it does not lessen its reality.

I’ll never forget being invited into one of those libraries; we spent an hour perusing the CEO’s 20,000 books.

I was like a child in a candy shop and mesmerised by what he read and how his growth was his private priority.

READ: How The Power Of Reading Holds The Key To Success


As I think back on it, that hour with him and his books was a peek into his brain – what shaped him, what’s important to him, how he thinks.


When Elon Musk was asked how he learnt to build rockets, he answered, “I read books”.

When speaking of Bill Gates’ childhood, his father says, “… just about every kind of book interested him.” Encyclopaedias, science fiction, you name it, Gates was (and is) a bookworm.

He read so much that his parents instituted a rule: no books at the dinner table.

To this day, he loves reading and via his GatesNotes shares his love with other leaders to encourage them to be as passionate about their growth through reading.

It makes perfect sense why His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, declared 2016 as the Year of Reading for the UAE.

Creating a generation of book lovers and lifetime readers will result in a generation of leaders.

I wonder, how important is reading to you? I mean, how much time do you spend reading books?

Take Warren Buffett as an example, who estimates that 80 percent of his working day is dedicated to reading.

Surely, you don’t have the luxury to allocate almost all (or maybe even any) of your working day to reading.

However, you’ve got to make it a priority and appreciate the power of learning through reading.

In conclusion 

On average, Fortune 500 CEOs spend half an hour every day on personal development.

They chose reading over binging on TV; 67 percent of them watch less than one hour of TV per day, whereas 77 percent of everyone else spends more than an hour in front of a screen.

There’s a big difference between wasting time reading tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn status updates and investing time to consume knowledge.

The choice is yours – but it’ll determine where you’ll be. Choose to read!


Dr Tommy Weir is a CEO coach and author of Leadership Dubai Style. Share your thoughts on the article with us by emailing

Reposted with permission.

Prefer an e-mag reading experience? No problem! This article is also available in our 8th September 2018 digital issue, which you can access here.

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This article is published by the editors of with the consent of the guest author. 

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