It's true that not everyone who reads must be a leader, but everyone who leads certainly must be a reader. And the glut of management books out there touting the latest methodologies are proof that a lot of people are trying to stay on top of the ever-changing game of leadership.
Looking to the future, however, ignores possibly the oldest, still relevant document that's created the outline for thousands of successful leaders in the past millennia and a half - The Rule of Benedict.
Communism only works in theory and in monasteries, and while this book has the overall goal of organizing the common life of monks, the insight into humanity and how we work as people holds true today with implications for any business or corporate structure out there. Here are some key points:
1. Listen Carefully with the Ear of Your Heart
"Listen" is the first word of the prologue, and ultimately the entire book can be reduced to just that. This is a skill that is learned, not inherited and doesn't just mean shutting up while others talk -- but that's a pretty good start.
Listening is truly trying to understand what is being said, not trying to jump in with your point of view at the next opportunity. (It's worth considering that your point of view doesn't need to be shared with others every time it might come up.)
Listen to your consumers. They will tell you what they want, not the other way around.
Listen to your employees. You hire them for their talents, not to agree with you.
Listen to those with different views. Just because you can't hear them doesn't mean they don't exist.
2. Heed Advice of the Young
It's easy to blame millennials for anything, and I know a number of millennials who are looking forward to blaming the next generation for whatever problems might arise in the future.
Benedict notes that the spirit often moves through the youngest, and that's no different today than it was in 500 AD.
Who is driving adoption behind things like Snapchat and Instagram? Not baby boomers.
Who actually understands the ins and outs of social media? Probably not anyone in the C-Suite.
Youth have the pulse on their culture, because it's theirs. Just because it doesn't make sense doesn't make it wrong. They'll be around long after you and I are gone, and what they're into will eventually become mainstream.
Not to mention, there's passion, motivation, possibly an un-jaded worldview and a perspective that can bring life and vibrancy to your company culture.
Listen to them, don't write them off.
3. Seek Counsel from Trusted Advisors
Saint Benedict lays out pretty clear structure for leadership in the community. Ultimate responsibility for the success or failure lies with the CEO. There is no co-sharing of power or trendy open-office layouts, but that doesn't mean there's a dictator.
While major decisions are made by the CEO, not voted upon by everyone, Benedict advises that the boss keeps a panel of trusted, experienced advisors nearby to give counsel and feedback on any number of issues.
Can you think of a CEO who did it all by themselves? I can only think of those who failed.
Seeking input from others, especially those at different power levels, demonstrates humility and a keen desire to make decisions with everyone's best interests in mind.