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The Well-Read Manager

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I know somebody who reads every headline on the websites of the New York Times, the Daily Nation and the Daily Telegraph daily. All before going to work. On the weekends, he also reads The Economist, Time, Newsweek and various trade publications. All from cover to cover.

Initially I thought this was excessive, until I realised that I read 172 different RSS feeds every day. That’s on top of my daily newspapers and various periodicals. Granted, not all of them are work-related, and I skim most of the headlines, but that is still a hefty amount of reading. I have tried to cut down, but I feel that keeping myself abreast of the latest issues in the worlds of business and ICT is important enough that I may never get the chance to read a work of fiction again.

So, what should managers (and those who aspire to management) be reading? Naturally, they should at least read their local newspaper; it would be a poor manager indeed who was unaware of what was going on in their own backyard. International events could also have an effect on a business too, and a respectable international edition should also make it on to the compulsory list.

Trade publications are also important, as regardless of whether they are published locally or internationally, they detail the latest developments in a particular industry or sector. While general “business” publications do have their uses, it is always best to seek out a publication that offers insight specific to your particular circumstances. In addition to general magazines like Management Today and Business Daily Africa, I also subscribe to a number of magazines focused on salacious topics such as planning policy and taxation regulations. These are not my areas of expertise, but I have clients who can be affected by these issues and I consider it part of my remit to keep myself informed.

These though, are magazines or websites. With regards to management books, I am more cautious. I believe it helps to know what kind of manager you are (or would like to be) before you start reading any new titles. If you have boned up on The Art of War and The Prince, you are unlikely to be swayed by touchy-feely titles like the Tao of Coaching. Similarly, a cynical pragmatist would probably be alienated by a title such as Automatic Wealth. While books that offer an alternative point of view can be useful, if they are completely outside your comfort zone they will only end up being hurled across the room in anger.

Of course, all of this assumes that a manager will have the time and inclination to do all this reading, which is not always the case. I do believe, however, that those who cannot be bothered could find themselves caught by surprise and overtaken by events. Reading widely should be considered as part of a manager’s strategic arsenal, yet another thing to give them and their business a competitive advantage. When it is placed in that context, can a good manager afford not to read?

[Image by Zoomar]

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