The power of books 📚

Last year my TLs and I read around 18 different books and a total of 30 books. This wasn’t a coincidence, my TLs and I weren’t just a bunch of leaders who love to read books and found ourselves working at the same company. We crafted the book reading habit into our leadership culture with small steps over the course of time.

Encouraging the book reading habit was important to me. I was eager to take our leadership skills to the next level as individuals and as a group. Here is why?

  • All the great leaders are doing it. So if Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey, the people who know a thing or two about leadership find time to read we must find time as well.

Many leaders, despite being extremely busy, set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) over their entire career for activities that could be classified as deliberate practice or learning.

  • All the great leaders were right, once I formed my own reading habit I felt a boost in my mentorship, coaching and leadership skills. My 1x1 became more deepful and insightful and for reasons which are still mysterious to me there was always a correlation between my reading insights to what happens in my day-to-day life. “What you just told me about reminds me of something I have just read” became one of my most common phrases.
  • There is no tangible way to measure leadership skills, to fully grasp how good you are as a leader. Although the amount of books you read doesn’t have a direct correlation for how good you are, it is a one tangible way to measure it, and to understand who you are. Imagine that at the same point of your career you will be in the final stage of a position you are interested in. Next to you will be another leader which is equal to you by all the parameters. You are both equally smart, have the same required experience, and have been working in the industry for the same amount of years. Basically he/she is your twin from another dimension. Will you hire yourself or your bookworm twin?
  • I’ve been struggling with books for most of my career and I didn’t want my group to struggle as well. I believe that in order to become better at something you just need to surround yourself with people who are already better at it. If I will incorporate the reading habit into our culture we will push one another to become better at it and provide a fruitful ground for growth.

Books, How it all began?

As a team leader in the army, I wasn’t exposed to any books. Maybe it was because of the army, maybe it was just the beginning of my career or the industry wasn’t there yet. I was first exposed to leadership books at Sears Israel. Gladly Sears Israel culture was focused on leadership and I had the privileges of working with amazing managers.

I don’t remember how or why it happened but I bought a copy of Good to Great and I was hooked.

I think I read a chapter a day, and spoke about it with almost anyone, friends, brother, my parents and coworkers. I was eager to read another book but unfortunately I didn’t find my reading rhythm.

I remember I wanted to read more, but I don’t remember why I didn’t. After I left Sears I took a long vacation to Australia and New Zealand, and besides my goal of relaxing and having fun I also set a goal to finish a book. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I would succeed in doing it, because over the course of 5 years I tried to read again and failed many times, starting a book and dropping it after the first chapter was my current habit. For the vacation, I bought Start With Why, as I fell in love with its TED talk and thought it would be a nice win, maybe it will help me find my reading rhythm.

The good news, I relaxed, had fun and finished the book. The bad news, I still didn’t find my reading rhythm. In my first 2 years as a VP R&D I read only 2 books, and although it was a success I was still disappointed about myself. I wanted to read more, yet again I failed.

By the start of 2018 I decided to put an end to my curse, and figure it out.

I asked myself these questions:

Why do you want to read books so much?

If you want to read books so much, why haven’t you?

My first answer was easy, I wanted to read books because I wanted to be a better manager, for myself and also for my employees. I wanted to be a leader who reads books. Although I didn’t read to my satisfaction, I felt that any book I have read helped me to become the manager I want to be.

My second answer was that I can’t read for an hour, I’m losing concentration and not enjoying it. I also didn’t make it a habit, I was trying to read only when I had free time and I would always find something else to do. Basically, I was frustrated with myself. I continuously repeated my current bad reading habit and was surprised I was failing.

After I stopped victimizing myself, I asked myself these questions

If you want to read books so much, What is the minimum time you think you can concentrate and still enjoy reading while doing it on a daily basis? In my mind I said, a person with clear teeth brushes his teeth for 2 minutes on a daily basis, a person who reads books read for at least mmm… 10 minutes on a daily basis. The daily basis was a crucial breakthrough and suddenly my new reading habit was born.

On a daily basis, read for 10 minutes or read 10 page

Unfortunately, I wasn’t good at following this new habit so by the end of 2018, I read only 2 books. Only 2 books? Wait a minute, it is more than 1, right? Maybe I broke the curse and formed a new habit? For 2019 my goal was 4 books, double or nothing, but I read 8! In 2020 the goal was 12 but I read 10, in 2021 the goal was still 12 and I read 10 and for 2022 the goal is still 12 and I’m aiming at 11.

I feel that today I can proudly say that I’m a leader who read books, and surround by leaders who read as well.

Spreading the habit

I’m addicted to creating a culture of leadership, a culture which emphasizes the importance of ownership, provides growth opportunities, and ability to innovate. This kind of culture will scale, and eventually leadership will spread like an infection, a good one. Encouraging the book reading habit is one pillar of such culture. Here are the step I recommend in order to encourag the habit

  • Read. The easiest way to encourage others to do something is by example. You don’t have to be a book worm of your organization but you have to be above the minimum bar so people will want to hear what you think and follow.
  • Cards on the table. if you are struggling with books like I did, you can still encourage others by putting yourself on the table. “I read several articles about the power of books and how we can benefit from it. I’m really struggling with it but maybe together we can push each other in order to form a reading habit?” Reflect to others the importance of book reading as much as you can and share your personal struggle.
  • “The first rule of book club is that you DO talk about book club”. In order to push one another, we have to talk about what we read. Share what you read and what you learned from it and any or all available channels. When I finish a book I always write a review about it. Then I share the review in LinkedIn, Twitter and our internal leaders slack channel. Trying to make sure as many people will see it.
  • Join a books social network. There are several social networks which focus on books. My preference is the old and not so updated platform, While it is my preferences, goodreads might be a good fit for everyone. There are many alternatives to goodreads which you can find here. I personally write reviews in goodread and share a link to the review, trying to encourage people to join. The platform will encourage one another to read more, you will see what others are reading, what they want to read and it will form your internal book club. Alsom, Joining a platform is much easier than reading a book. For people like me who struggle with even starting to read I asked “I understand that reading a book at the moment sounds like a lot, there is already a lot on your plate so maybe you can do the minimum of just joining the platform?”
  • Directly encourage people to read. As a manager I have the privileges of performing 1x1 on a weekly basis. This means I have the opportunity to speak about books and encourage people to read. This is exactly what I did. During the 1x1 sessions I reflected on why it is important, shared my own struggle, asked to join the network, asked people where are they standing with their current book, are there any insights so far? I even suggested to invest our first 10 minutes of our 1x1 session on reading, in order to emphasize the importance of books. BTW, no one accepted my offer but I’m sure it helped to move the needle. I tried everything I can in order to encourage reading.
  • The first book. Recommending the first book is crucial. For a person who hasn’t read before or has struggled with books as I did, the wrong book will hold him back. I usually recommend a book based on the leader’s needs, according to what is on his mind, but for the first book I usually recommend the known “The 5 Dysfunction of a Team”. This book is relatively short, small and easy going. It is unique in the leadership books as it is more of a novel. I believe the rate of finishing it is much higher than any other book and this is exactly what I aim for.


According to my goodreads account I have read 32 books, and I have 182 books to go. In 2022 I’m planning to read 12 books out of the 182 in my list.

I’m also planning to work on speed reading, there are several techniques which I had never practiced.

For you, If you are struggling with books as I did, and my habit isn’t working for you, maybe together we can build a habit which works for you, don’t hesitate to contact me thru LinkedIn. If you are looking for a book recommendation, you can either contact me or take a look at my goodread profile (just remember to order it by rating).




VP R&D | Entrepreneur | Engineering Leadership Consultant Twitter: LinkedIn:

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Nir Altmark

Nir Altmark

VP R&D | Entrepreneur | Engineering Leadership Consultant Twitter: LinkedIn:

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