Reading for Emotional Intelligence

There’s a lot written about successful leaders – successful people – being big-time readers. (This article from Inc. magazine provides a solid foundation for the argument.)

But I think it’s important to take the conversation at least one step further in that a very particular kind of reading can lead to a significant increase in our leadership impact.

It’s one thing to be a non-fiction junkie, keeping up with the latest in our particular fields or satisfying our curiosity to learn new things. It’s just as important to make reading  fiction a centerpiece of your reading load, as it as a powerful tool for the development of emotional intelligence, an essential attribute of the most influential and well-regarded people.

Author and Man Booker prize nominee, Esi Edugyan, puts it this way:

I think it is all too easy, especially given our current age, to deny the humanity of those who are unlike us, to willfully see the stranger in others. Fiction puts readers into the psyche of characters who may be wildly different from themselves. This intimacy with another’s lived experience is an exercise in empathy. It is not, of course, the exclusive territory of fiction to do this. But fiction can do it viscerally.

Here’s the current NYT Paperback Trade Fiction list to get you started. And tempting though it might be to buy one through Amazon, why not give your local library a try? I find that the three-week check-out period provides just enough time to both procrastinate reading the book and actually doing so!


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

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