Thinking, not charisma, is the foundation for being a successful leader. If there is one practice to develop this edge it is reading. It is not valuable in of itself – meaning, reading for the sake of reading is good. No, it the principle method of developing your mind so you can adjust to the fog of war. And it is becoming a lost art.

Reading is a time intensive and laborious age-old practice. No surprise it is being passed over for easier methods of learning and entertainment, with their instantaneous results. Check out this Washington Post article, “The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul.” The author writes on religious topics, hence the term “soul.” But the term is derived from the Ancient Greeks, which can be translated into “psyche.”]

Accepting this modern substitutes for reading is a great trap for any leader, especially those looking to develop their competitive edge. Besides helping you build up a repository of content, reading also strengthens your mental abilities to focus and concentrate. As a leader, one of your greatest challenges is to focus on the essentials – the things that matter. Given the technological progress that makes our live both easy and complicated everyday, your ability to concentrate on what matters and not deviate, the very process of reading becomes indespensible. Failure to read can lead to unnecessary errors and ultimately bad habits.

“‘Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books,’ says Quartz: ‘It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important.’”

The focus necessary to read helps one navigate different situations and people. I’m currently reading American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, by Colin Woodard. What does it have to do with business? Although history, the book focuses on identity. You know, the thing that businesses and professionals strive to uncover about themselves. By reading about these “nations” (groups of people that share the same space but with different histories, preferences, leaders and custom), I’m improving the odds that I can better detect the identities of different people and teams, now and in the future. But I’m also learning how to write when I read. Some people are a pleasure to read; some are horrendous. This type of exposure helps me identify what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, this new knowledge will help me better communicate to my clients and to my readers. You get the idea.