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Highly successful people read books differently, says expert: An ‘underused and incredibly powerful…way to develop ourselves’

By | Natasha Piñon |

The best leadership advice you’ll ever receive may already sit on your bookshelf — once you learn to read like a leader.

From Bill Gates to Barack Obama, successful leaders are often diligent readers. And there’s a good chance they’re reading differently than you, intentionally scanning every page for hidden lessons and leadership solutions, says Northwestern management professor Brooke Vuckovic.

In Vuckovic’s MBA class on moral leadership, students read and analyze novels and short stories to determine how power and empathy manifest in the workplace.

“Our best leaders are looking for ways to develop themselves, and fiction represents an often underused and incredibly powerful, low cost, ongoing, pleasurable way to develop ourselves — if read correctly,” Vuckovic tells CNBC Make It.

Here’s her advice for reading books like highly successful people do.

Ask the right questions

When you start a new novel, pause after the first chapter or so and try to describe the central characters: What forces impact them? What drives them?

By answering those questions, you develop a “crucial skill” for leaders, Vuckovic says: interpersonal awareness and empathy, which has been shown to foster welcoming and thriving workplaces.

Next, think about which character or elements of the story you relate to the most. What do you have in common? Why do you find that particular character so appealing? Do you have the same strengths or flaws?

Now, you’re practicing self-awareness, another critical skill for successful leadership, Vuckovic says.

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