Harry Truman is credited with saying: “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
I have heard that quote in many forms, and I agree with it. However, I never really thought about the follow-on question, "What are leaders reading?" Like most people who study leadership I have read books by Dale Carnigie, Stephen R. Covey, Jim Collins, John C. Maxwell, Ken Blanchard, Tom Rath, Peter Drucker, and dozens of others. But I never really thought about what I should be reading. I simply assumed that if you want to be a better leader you should read more leadership books. I am convinced that is not a bad idea, but is there a better idea? The other day I came across this quote by Ezra Taft Benson:
". . . one of the most important things you can do as priesthood leaders is to immerse yourselves in the scriptures. Search them diligently. Feast upon the words of Christ. Learn the doctrine. Master the principles that are found therein. There are few other efforts that will bring greater dividends to your calling. There are few other ways to gain greater inspiration as you serve.After I read this quote my mind immediately thought of this scripture:
"But that alone, as valuable as it is, is not enough. You must also bend your efforts and your activities to stimulating meaningful scripture study among the members of the Church. Often we spend great effort in trying to increase the activity levels in our stakes. We work diligently to raise the percentages of those attending sacrament meetings. We labor to get a higher percentage of our young men on missions. We strive to improve the numbers of those marrying in the temple. All of these are commendable efforts and important to the growth of the kingdom. But when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow." (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Power of the Word”, Ensign, May 1986)
5 And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (Alma 31:5)I have always known that immersion in the scriptures is essential for spiritual nourishment, but I never really connected scripture study directly with leadership development. Scripture study appears to be a prescription for better leadership without any negative side effects. When we read the scriptures inspiration increases. The sensitivity to the Spirit that comes through scripture study not only benefits us in our church leadership, but it also improves our ability to lead in our professions.
My personal definition of leadership (borrowed from Neal A. Maxwell) is, "Leadership is Love in Action". Scripture study draws you closer to the Spirit, which generates greater feelings of charity, and this leads to greater love for those you lead. There is not greater power to motivate people than the power of love. Those who seek to be effective leaders should make daily scripture study part of their reading repertoire.