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If Readers are Leaders, What are Writers?

Francis Bacon, the English Essayist in his timeless essay on Of Studies gave an insight into the germane question “If readers are leaders, what are writers?” and accentuated on the link between reading and writing when he penned “reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man; and, therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not.”

Essentially, reading and writing can be considered a twin-vehicle which has continued to transport humans in their pursuit of knowledge from the dawn of civilization. There is a symbiotic relationship between reading and writing that connects both leaders and writers. It is like the two side of a coin; whichever side the coin lands, it only draws attention to the other. It is evident in the development of human society that the measure of greatness in leadership has been attributable to reading, and writers have been in the frontiers of impartation of knowledge through information, enlightenment, education and inspiration. Leaders drink from the writers’ fountain of knowledge and become transformed into greatness in leadership and service.

Leaders who read are great. John Coleman whilst lamenting the dearth of reading culture amongst business leaders in America when compared to India and China said, “but deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.” Leaders who achieve greatness in business, military, politics or governance are or have been avid readers. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple was reputed to have had an “inexhaustible interest” in William Blake. Nike founder, Phil Knight so reveres his library that in it you would have to take off your shoes and bow. Sidney Harman, founder of Harman Industries called poets “the original systems thinkers” whilst quoting freely from Shakespeare and Tennyson. David Rubenstein, founder of Carlyle Group has the habit of reading dozens of books every week. Winston Churchill won his Nobel Prize in Literature.

Prof Pius Adesanmi attributed one of the causes of leadership failure in Nigeria to poor reading culture but credited Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State as an exceptional leader because he is an avid reader  referenced Tolu Ogunlesi who claimed he caught a glimpse of the Governor  Fashola’s Reading List through the window of the latter’s car and saw books like Planet of Slums by Mike Davis, Giving by Bill Clinton and Economics for Dummies by Sean Masaki Flynns amongst substantial pile of books and newspapers.

Kelsey Meyer posited  that “leaders must be readers” because “reading and learning from peers within, and outside of, your industry enables you to grow as an employee, business owners and leaders in three distinct ways” to remind, challenge and give them opportunities to interact with others in their pursuit of greatness.

Writers make leaders who read great. Writers are dreamers, visionaries, prophets, philosophers, innovators and social conscience who define the course of history, shape the society, set agendas for universal human interaction and predict the future through the prism of their writings.

From the ancient Sumer of southern Mesopotamia to the early Egyptian hieroglyphics through the thousands of the ancient Chinese government records to our modern and post-modern literacy, writers such as Ptahhotep, Enheduanna, Hammurabi, Moses, Sun Tzu, Lao Tze, Aristotle, Avicenna, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Ernest Hemmingway, Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wole Soyinka and myriads of writers have produced through their timeless writing innumerable reading texts leaders read to shape civilization and the future  of humanity. 
Writers have inspired leaders who read their texts through ideographic to early mnemonic symbols to clay tokens and Chinese Jiahu symbols to Tartaria tablets to hieroglyphic scripts through to early Semitic alphabets to middle ages literary languages to the printing press, the computers, the mobile phones and the instant messaging systems that defy time and space. In contemporary times, the growth of multimedia literacy is heralding a postliterate society and the writers are in the frontline setting agendas for the future.

Writers are originators of ideas. They create concepts and ideas that challenge the thought process and decision making of leaders who read them. They generate ideologies that shape the direction of the world and its future.

Writers are entrepreneurs. They create wealth and more successful than their counterparts. The Journal of Business Communication in a recent survey said that among college educated people, those in the top 20% of writing ability earned more than three times the salary of those in the bottom 20%.

Writers are inventive innovators. They open up their readers to the world of impossibilities. Yusuf Hassan quoted Prof Wole Soyinka as saying “my horizon on humanity is enlarged by reading the writers of poems, seeing a painting, listening to some music, some opera which has nothing at all to do with a volatile human condition or struggle, or whatever, it enriches me as a human being.”
Writers create the future. They provide the vision, platform and discipline for readers to lead. Reading is critical to leadership success and work effectiveness that Wang Jianlin, the Chinese business tycoon who leads the Dalian Wanda Group requested his workforce to read a minimum of one book per year. He said, “each employee is required to read one recommended book per year.” The “Read One Book Per Year” is a key component of the Dalian Wanda Group’s official mission statement.

One of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information and knowledge is through reading, whether one is reading Wikipedia, Barak Obama or Aristotle. Writers continue to provide inspiration, information and aspiration to their readers.

Author: Babatunde Fajimi,
January 16, 2015, Lagos, Nigeria


Williams, W. E. (Selected) (1954). A Book of English Essays. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Limited.

Coleman, John (2012, August 15) Leaders Who Want to Lead Read. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/08/for-those-who-want-to-lead-read

Hassan, Yusuf (2013) If Readers are Leaders, What are Writers? Retrieved from https://primeenergyreports.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/if-readers-are-leaders-what-are-writers-3/

History of Writing (n.d) Retrieved from en.m.wikipedia.or/wiki/HIistory_of_writing

Meyer, Kesley (2012, August 3) Why Leaders Must Be Readers. Retrieved from  http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2012/08/03why-leaders-must-be-readers

Ogunlesi, Tolu (2008, April) Governor Fashola’s Reading List. Retrieved from theafrobeat.blogspot.com/2008/04/governor-fasholas-reading-list-by-tolu.htm

Oil Patch Writing (2012). Writers Are Leaders. Retrieved from https://oilpatchwriting.wordpress.com /2012/04/04/writers-are-leaders-2/

Prof Pius Adesanmi (2008, October 27). Babatunde Fashola: the Loner of Sodom? Retrieved from http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/pius-adesanmi/babatunde-fashola-the-loner-of-sodom-13.html

Siebelink, Hanneke (2014) Why Great Leaders Read Books Retrieved from  http://leadershipwatch-aadboot.com/2014/05/22/great-leaders-read-books/


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