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Leadership: well-lived or just well-read?

I read.  A lot.  50 to 60 books a year.  Several hours of blog surfing weekly. Newsletters, trade publications and Google Alerts.  etc. etc. etc. I read a lot.  Much of it about effective leadership.

It’s not that I’m a bibliophile, it’s just that I spend a lot of hours in airplanes, I’m not a real fan of movies and, other than sports, don’t watch television much.  But I like to read.

The good news is that I’ve learned a ton of business acumen and leadership insights from all this reading.  I’m tremendously grateful for the men and women who took the time to distill for the rest of us their knowledge.  Surf to my LinkedIn profile for a list of my current “Top 10 Leadership Reads” to see some of the books I’m high on right now (  It’s a great list of some of the best thinking in leadership I’ve found.

But I was reminded recently that being well-read is not the same as being well-lived.  The most powerful leadership lessons I’ve learned have not come from books.  They’ve come from leading.  Leading poorly.  Leading with bad information.  Leading in the dark.  Leading with fear and trepidation.  But leading.  And learning from leading.  The acquisition of leadership skills is first and foremost a hands-on acquisition. There are no books that can teach like life.  Thanks, Todd Thomson, for that reminder.


“It is not the critic who counts. … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

What leaders are you looking to for advice?  Are they just well-read, or are they well-lived?