Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.

However, the very best leaders are not just readers; they are active readers.

During the early stages of my leadership journey, I set a goal to read over 30 books in one year.

I achieved my goal, but my reading was more about putting a check in the box than letting what I read change me.

On the other hand, active readers utilize a strategy where they actively interact with the text to understand and remember it better.

Instead of just scanning through the material, active reading requires focus and interaction with the content.

Here are some key techniques used in active reading:

1. Highlighting and Underlining

For the longest time, most books I read were never marked in.

One of the first habits I had to develop to be an active reader was to highlight and/or underline important points in the book I was reading.

This allowed me to focus on the main ideas I just read and improve my retention of what I had just seen.

2. Annotating

In the early years, I took notes and added them to a notebook.

I referenced the page of the book next to each note.

As I learned to make my reading more personal, I started adding notes in the margins.

Sometimes, I would place sticky notes on certain pages.

With my sticky notes, I would jot down questions, thoughts, and connections to other concepts.

Taking notes helped improve my comprehension.

3. Summarizing

If I found I was struggling with a concept, or trying to etch a certain idea into my brain, summarizing would prove to be a great help.

I would write a brief summary of a certain section or chapter to help reinforce my understanding of what I read.

It was much easier to retain once it was in my own words.

4. Re-reading

In order to reinforce what I was reading, it was important to go back and re-read sections that were challenging or unclear.

But I wouldn’t limit myself to just that.

I created a habit out of reviewing and re-reading the sections I highlighted and underlined, studying my notes, and poring over any summaries I had written.

Repetition is the mother of all skill, and by re-reading, I had a better chance of internalizing what I had read.

5. Asking Questions

Reading isn’t about accepting the status quo.

Some books have challenged my viewpoint and outlook.

On those occasions, it turns into a conversation between myself and the written word.

Questions arise while reading, and it helps to clarify unclear points and encourage critical thinking.

Questions produce more impactful answers that stay with us long after the book has been put down.

6. Making Connections

This is an area where a great deal of my writing comes from.

I find it quite impactful when I can relate the text I read to a personal experience of mine, to other books I have read, or to real-world events.

This helps deepen my understanding of the subject, and when I share it with others, it impacts them too.

7. Paraphrasing

When I am having a hard time grasping something, I find it helpful to take that information from the text and put it into my own words.

Our comprehension improves when we are able to paraphrase an idea and make it our own.

My words make it personal, and I hold onto things that are personal to me.


For a leader, reading should not be just informational; it should be transformational.

By actively applying the techniques I have outlined, I have seen an improvement in my comprehension and have taken the written word from the page and applied it to my everyday life.

And isn’t that the whole point of reading?

As I said before, not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.

The very best leaders are not just readers; they are active readers.

Be your best.

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