If you’ve been with me in these Leading Thoughts for a while, then you know I focus on the “soft” factors of leadership. I believe the more technical factors are important, of course, but you have degrees, consultants, and professional organizations to help you with those. I want to help you be a great leader from the inside out.

So, in this Leading Thoughts I want to recommend something that may seem strange to you. I want you to read some fiction.

Now, most leaders read but they tend to read non-fiction. They read biographies of leaders like Lincoln or Mandela, they read non-fiction about their field, or they read non-fiction about the world within which they lead—books about politics, economics, geography, or world affairs.

I’ve tended to be a non-fiction reader myself, but recently I’ve begun to read more fiction. There’s good reason for this. The experts tell us that reading fiction sharpens our ability to perceive other human beings. It increases our emotional intelligence. It heightens our compassion. It makes us more relatable, better able to understand and connect with other people.

So let me issue a challenge. Even if you haven’t read a novel since freshman lit class, read a few of the following. You’re going to find yourself deepening as a leader. You are going to feel more connected to the human. You are going to feel rested and refreshed. You’re going to find creativity and imagination soaring in your life. Trust me. You’ll thank me.

Now, the novel that is most read by leaders of every kind is a Civil War novel called Killer Angels. It was written by Michael Shaara. You’ve probably seen the movie Gettysburg but you absolutely need to read the book it was based upon. It constantly tops military reading lists, but also lists like ours: lists of novels that are great reads but which also teach leadership.

Here are some other novels I strongly recommend.

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt – This book is an easy read and yet it changed my life of leadership entirely. One organization I led was transformed by it because I emphasized its lessons constantly. I can’t recommend it enough.

Once An Eagle by Anton Myrer – I was moved and instructed by this book. I suppose part of my love for it is that a general once said that he found that “pretenders” don’t relate well to the book, while “warriors” do. That won me. I want to be a warrior. Yet even my civilian life of leadership was transformed by it. Give it a try. See what surfaces in your life.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield – This book is about the Battle of Thermopylae, which you may have seen depicted in the movie 300. Read the book, though. It is a powerful study of leadership, using King Leonidas of Sparta as the example. Keep a pen nearby as you do. You’ll want to mark the many lessons and powerful quotes you encounter.

There are more, of course, and you can dig them up by Googling themes you enjoy or going on Amazon to see what books people “also buy” beyond the novels you’ve learned from. Enjoy this.

Here’s my challenge. Read two novels that stress leadership by the end of the year. And tell me about it. I love hearing from you.

That’s it. Enjoy. More soon.