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My Library is an Open Book

July 25th, 2007

Did you see Monday’s New York Times article “C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success”? I’m always looking for a solid inspirational article or story to start off my week, and on Monday, this was it.

If you’re like most folks and find yourself religiously reading my blog and leaving no room for the New York Times business section, the gist of it is that the majority of the world’s great leaders are also great readers.  More importantly, it highlights the fact that many great leaders achieve their positions of prominence in life by creating personal libraries devoted to how to think, not how to compete.

The common thread between all of these great leaders with stacks of books at their fingertips is that each and every one is looking for inspiration on how to become the next Renaissance thinker.

History points to thousands of examples of this.  James Macconica, author of Renaissance Thinkers wrote biographical studies of four of the most important philosophical writers of the European Renaissance.  His book explains how each of them read the literary classics of Ancient Greece and Rome and understood that the insights of pagan antiquity kept their legitimacy in the Christian era.

Whether it’s Steve Jobs gaining inspiration from poet and artist William Blake, Phil Knight’s fascination with Asian history, or credit card king Dee Hock dreaming up the word for what “Visa” is from the works of Steinbeck and Stegner, leaders read to find other perspectives on how to think or solve a problem.

What I don’t understand is why some of these leaders are keeping these libraries private.  Only a select few, for example, at Nike, ever saw the personal library of the founder, Phil Knight, which was a small, low-ceiling a room behind his formal office.

We encourage agency members to share any good book they have read with other folks.  We build our office library that way and are able to share relevant books with clients, friends, family and each other. To me, one of the greatest parts about being a leader is that you have the opportunity to inspire and teach those around you.   That’s why my library is an open book… (or blog).

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