For years I have spent a chunk of every Sunday learning to be a better leader. What do I do for my personal Sunday school? Read the Bible or Koran? No. The latest book by Jim Collins? No, that's not it. Take a class of some sort? That's not it either.
At my favorite coffee house, I read, religiously, my favorite inches-thick newspaper (in my case, the New York Times, but it could be any truly national-class newspaper with an international perspective)—pretty much front to back. My secret is that I do my most careful reading of the sections not directly related to my current job as CEO of ACT, Inc. While I do read the business and management sections, and the occasional education insert, that's not where I spend the bulk of my time.
I'm not a stylish person, but I devour the Fashion & Style section. Why? Because it charges up my sense of people’s desire for self-expression, social engagement, acquisitiveness, sexiness, and being “self-stylish” if you will. Granted the styles represented—the watches, dresses, leather, feathers, bright colors, and the dominance of black—are not for most people, but they stretch my vision of people’s need to be recognized as different, special, wanting to stand out. If your company has customers, and it better, what implications do these weekly insights have? It's worth pondering.
I used to be professor of theatre and a stage director, so I am attracted to the Arts section maybe more than most CEOs. But a weekly dose of creativity is thrilling. The arts reveal the emotional, the spirited, the imaginative, the otherworldly, the magical, the raw, the brutal, the tragic, the absurd, the funny, and, most importantly, what it means to be human in a turbulent, ever-changing global society.
If you want to be a leader, if you want to change your industry, if you want to make a difference in this world, you need to be creative—perhaps wildly so. You need to understand what it means to be human—loving, losing, seeking, hating, struggling, and being triumphant—if you're going to rightfully lead your employees and serve your customers, each of whose lives is reflected in the mirror of the arts.
Understanding the globe, its cultures, its people, its politics, its struggles, its triumphs, its environments, the impact of water, deserts, forests, and mountains, is a requirement of every CEO. That's why I read with great care (and caring) the international news and travel sections.
The International section reveals human strife, even hatred, in hot spots around the globe, the shifting politics, ethnic and religious stresses, technological advances, and the heroism of individuals. The Travel section brings a happier connection to our globe. It beckons us to personally experience the arts, food, cities and rural regions, wine and beer, unique modes of transportation, languages, and on and on about every corner of our mysterious planet.
If you want to be a CEO, ask yourself if your industry has a global dimension. If it does, and I would argue that all do, wouldn't it be useful to get a weekly dose of style, international awareness and travel knowledge to inform your success as a leader?
And what about Sports? The Sunday Book Review? The value of these sections and others will be outlined in my next post. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, attend a “CEO Sunday School” of your own making this week and leave a comment about what you learned.
Jon Whitmore is the CEO of ACT, Inc. | Linkedin.Com/today/post/article/20140117223849-47700580--sunday-school-for-executives?trk=mp-details-rc