Are you a community manager?
If you said yes, then you’re a leader. You may not think of yourself that way, but it’s true.
Okay, so maybe you’re not charging into battle or spearheading some big world-changing reform. But as a community manager, your job is to metaphorically stand in front of a crowd of people and shepherd their interest in a particular direction. You need to work hard to develop the skills that develop exceptional leaders. So how’s it done?
Well for starters, you can read.
Harry S. Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
Intrigued? Then grab a cup of tea and your favorite blanket, because I’m going to give you three reasons why reading will make you a better leader and consequently, a better community manager. I’ll also recommend 3 books that have nothing to do with management (at least not directly) but will nonetheless help you grow as a better leader of your community.
Reading Helps you to Better Understand People
Humans are curious creatures living in a world of finite horizons. We’re born, grow up, and then usually grind out our four score and ten years apportioned to us in the narrow spaces of our careers carved out by geography, culture, and language.
Even for those who manage to break out of the mold, we can only see and do so much in the time we’ve been given. There are swathes of people in the world we’ll never understand, simply because we can’t relate to their cultural and conceptual world.
The beauty of books is that they allow us to imaginatively inhabit times and places we would otherwise never experience. Take Chaucer, for example. Through his words, we can travel back in time to 14th century England and encounter all its societal ills, and learn from them. With J.D. Vance, we can stay in the present and learn what it’s like to have grown up in poor white Appalachia.
All of this adds up to a wider and more sympathetic experience of the world and the people living in it. The technical term for this is emotional intelligence. When it comes to leading a community, understanding people is worth more than gold.
Book Recommendation: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Reading Makes you a Better Communicator
When we communicate, we attempt to share our vision of the world with our audience. We try to share our thoughts and feelings with another person, to convey our ideas and evoke understanding in others.
When you understand where other people are coming from, you can more vividly relate the world, vision, or community you’re trying to build to people of all sorts of backgrounds and interests.
To put it simply, reading makes you better with words. The rhetorical skills and vocabulary gains you pick up while reading will organically transfer over to the words you communicate—whether that's in casual conversation or content generation. Choosing the right words makes you a better communicator.
Book Recommendation: Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
Reading Makes you a Better Content Generator
Writing better content - content that speaks to people - is probably the most practical benefit of a healthy reading habit. Not only does reading help you connect and communicate better, but it gives you tons of new material to use when you’re trying to develop content. So how is this applied?
Pro Tip: Develop a system for keeping track of content ideas as you read. I use OneNote to keep a running notebook of ideas. Whenever I run across something that would make a great piece, I jot down a quick note with the idea, its source, and a rough outline of how I think it should go. Super easy, and a super simple way to generate new, better content.
Book Recommendation: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.
If you’re not used to reading actual books, this may be hard at first. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. If you commit to reading for 15 minutes a day at average speed, you'll read 1 million words in a single year. That’s roughly 20 average-length books. Look at you, bookworm!
So start small, but get started! Pick one of my recommendations or something else you’ve had your eye on. Then, chip away a few minutes every day. You’ll be surprised by what you learn, and your community will get hooked!
I’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment in the section below and let me know what books have influenced you the most as a community manager.