Leaders That Write Make History

Posted: May 31, 2015 by Bob Gilbreath in Education, Innovation, Leadership, People

Bob-G-2015It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon in May. Instead of lounging in the hammock or attacking weeds in the yard, I am writing this column for the Enquirer. Why? In case you wondered, there is no pay for this piece. It is rewarding to share perspective and get a pat on the back, but the selfish reason I write is that it makes me a better business leader.

If you look around you may notice that many of the most successful business men and women in the world broadcast and exchange ideas by publishing their thoughts. CEOs of top companies write books and take the stage. In the startup world, blogs by executives are featured on websites, and venture capitalists frequently predict where the world is going. You might think it is just an ego thing, and I know there is a bit of that in all of us. But when you ask writers why they do it, most will admit that habitual writing hones their leadership abilities and contributes to their companies’ success.

Sitting down with a blank piece of paper can be a formidable challenge. The craft of thought leadership takes the strategy brains to unlock novel ideas, the storytelling skills to put them together in a compelling way, and the artist’s courage to put yourself out there for the world to judge your work. Ideas, skills and courage happen to be three big requirements of successful company leaders.

A regular and consistent commitment to writing is key, however, in order to build the skills and muscle memory. Jerry Seinfeld writes new jokes every single day. This forces him to keep noticing what is funny in the world around him, and results in fresh material for his standup act. I have similarly found that my need to come up with one new post a week pushes me to listen for interesting insights and novel ideas. Some of my best articles and bigger business ideas come from an “aha” moment in an otherwise normal meeting or lunchtime conversation.

It has never been easier to share your ideas through writing. Company newsletters, corporate blogs, and now LinkedIn allow you to author and share a post within minutes. When you are stumped for a topic, write what you know: Say, the wisdom you have collected over the years, or what happened in the halls of your company yesterday.

The benefits of writing can add up in ways that you might not expect. Your posts can inspire employees, educate customers, and attract potential hires, even years after publication. Your impact can scale while your sleep in a global, Google-powered world.

This column is populated by a variety of successful leaders who bring unique perspectives and take the time to hit writing deadlines over weekends. I am sure that they would all agree that writing here has benefited them in ways that they never expected. If you trace our writing over time, you will likely find that our ideas and insights become deeper and our storytelling more entertaining. Now it is your turn.

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