Why Every Leader Should Set Aside Time to Write

Most leaders spent copious amounts of time reading to better themselves and improve their work. Here’s why they should add writing to their learning routine.

Each week I write this column with the hope that someone, anyone, will find its contents helpful and valuable to their life. Whether our readers are entrepreneurs, longtime corporate executives, up-and-coming managers, or simply early career professionals just starting out, my goal each time I write is to provide valuable insights, however big or small, that will enrich people’s thinking and allow them to better themselves and their work.

But what is happening behind the scenes each week as I write is a betterment lesson that I’ll argue here is even more treasured than reading other people’s writing. It’s the act of writing itself.

Because I am a formally trained journalist, you might think that writing comes easily to me. And to some extent, it does. Still, coming up with something profound to write about each and every week, and compiling the necessary research and source material, is incredibly challenging. It forces me to reflect on my day-to-day job as an editor, as well as my life outside of work, the books I read, etc., and think deeply about everything that I’m consuming, its importance to business and life, and how it is continuously helping me learn and grow. That’s before I even type a single word. Then, as I’m writing, the process repeats itself — the reflection, the thinking, the tinkering with the concepts and lessons I happen to be writing about that day — and I find that my learning is improved even more.

In other words, the practice of writing is an incredibly valuable learning experience in and of itself. Not only does it help me think deeper about the concepts and content that I’m writing about, but it puts those things in a perspective that I probably never would have experienced had I not had to put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard) to present those things for other people to read.

Leaders of business or other disciplines likely spend a lot of time studying their craft. For most people, this means they read. They read books. They read magazines. They read newspapers. They read blogs. They read textbooks. They read content as presented to them through an in-person classroom lecture or an online course. Consumption, for most professionals, is the primary vehicle for learning. But how often do we take what we’re consuming and turn it into something we’re creating?

That’s why writing is so important for anyone’s development, but especially, I’d argue, for executives at the highest levels.

It’s no secret that the higher you go on the professional ladder, the more your time is taken by various commitments and tasks. So much so that I imagine a lot of executives even struggle to find the time to read and consume new information that isn’t directly tied to their day-to-day duties leading their organizations. To be sure, many do; even outgoing President Barack Obama blocks off time to read each night.

Still, I challenge leaders to try and integrate some form of writing into their life. It doesn’t necessarily need to be writing for someone else to read, but if writing a blog or some other article for consumption is something you’re interested in, then certainly that is an option. But even if it’s just keeping a journal, or another form of writing that allows you each day or each week to reflect and put down on a page your thoughts and experiences, I think the act of doing so is invaluable.

Also, whatever kind of writing you choose to engage in, it doesn’t need to be long. Something as short as a couple of paragraphs here or there makes the difference. Not only will you become a better writer over time — and writing and communication is certainty a hard skill that is helpful to anyone, whether it’s in business or life outside of work — but it will change how you read and consume new information.

So, to those who find this column valuable to the work they’re doing, thank you for reading each week. It’s been a pleasure to write, and I look forward to the benefits the practice continues to bring week in and week out, either to me by writing, or to you by reading.

Now, go write something.

Frank Kalman is Talent Economy’s Managing Editor.

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