Why Every Leader Should Write a Book

Authorship is not a trade, it is an inspiration; authorship does not keep an office, its habitation is all out under the sky, and everywhere the winds are blowing and the sun is shining and the creatures of God are free.
— Mark Twin, A petition to the Queen of England, 1887

Within in a few months my dream will come true. I will have published my first book. This book is the product of three plus years of effort, including settling on a topic (becoming the new boss, a book for new leaders to experience sustained success), identifying a target audience (new leaders, primarily on the front-end of their leadership journey), doing lots and lots of writing, testing my content online through regular leadership posts, finding an editor and publisher, and working through the complex publishing process (even the cover design can be a big, time-consuming and emotionally charged deal).  

Without question, this is an exhilarating feeling. Not only am I proud of what I have achieved, but I am super excited to know that very soon I will be able to share my ideas and experiences with so many others.

I often reflect on how I got here and how difficult it may have been had I tried to achieve this goal as a full time head of school (my previous position). Leaving aside the fact that my experiences in that position provided much of the fodder for my text (something that I likely could not have shared freely while under contract), I think that the rigors of full time employment would have made such an undertaking daunting, to say the least. Without having real control over my time and with the many demands of school leadership, how could I have possibly seen this process through? The likely answer is that I wouldn’t have. And I suspect that many leaders with great content, ideas, anecdotes, experiences and achievements feel similarly.

There simply isn’t the time to focus on a book project when you’re busy building, visioning, communicating, recruiting and retaining employees, balancing the books and everything else that leaders must do in order to keep things moving in the right direction? We can barely get enough thoughts down on paper for a simple blog post, let alone a full-fledged book. In addition, many leaders feel that they really have nothing to add to a saturated market filled with scores of volume authored by real experts.

Yet, despite these obvious and real challenges, I believe that every leader can and should consider book writing as a real professional objective. Never mind if you’re not much a writer; you can always get a ghost writer or interviewer to actually get the words on paper. The key point is that you’re thinking with a particular direction in mind and setting aside regular time and effort to get there.

Why do I advocate book writing? Besides for the possibility that you may make some extra money through book sales (though it’s not always that simple to achieve), the following is a list of benefits that the process can offer every leader:

  1. It forces you to record your ideas – Every leader is a treasure trove of learning and experiences. We all have moments, interactions, decisions and the like that were informative, inspiring or perhaps the opposite. When we share what we’ve done and what we’ve learned, others can become the wiser. As Twain once wrote, “Experience is an author’s most valuable asset; experience is the thing that puts the muscle and the breath and the warm blood into the book he writes.” (Is Shakespeare Dead)
  2. We become more reflective – Similar to keeping a diary (remember those?), writing our ideas and experiences down forces up to become reflective. Did I do the right thing? What evidence do I have that the system actually works? Organizing our thoughts helps us to become more mindful of our professional practice and ways by which we can become even stronger leaders and more effective professionals.
  3. Writers try to back things up with research – It’s one thing to say what works for me. It’s something completely different to back up our actions with the findings of researchers. As we prepare our manuscripts we invariably seek to learn more and make a more compelling case. This helps your readers and also helps you. 
  4. It sharpens our skills – In a similar vein, writing helps us to sharpen our skills. Not only do we invariably become better communicators, but we also tend to work on strengthening our effectiveness. Who wants to be in a position of pushing an idea, process, etc. without being able to successfully point to success in that same area? We need to walk the walk if we’re going to do any real talking.
  5. And broadens our social network – Book writing opens up a whole new area of professional and personal contacts. In addition to editors and publishers, you will connect with other writers from a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Moreover, you very well may become more interested in things that until now have been unknown and foreign, such as writing genres and media communication in general.
  6. Writing adds to your toolkit – Writers who take any degree of ownership of their processes become more adept at many new skills, such as website creation/design, marketing, communication, negotiating, and more.
  7. It opens up new doors – Today’s marketplace is perhaps more unsure than ever. So often we hear of leaders who were unceremoniously laid off or repositioned within their organizations. Book writing can open up a whole new area in your professional lives, such as consulting and public speaking. Even if you’re not going anywhere anytime soon, you’ll be amazed at the new contacts and relationships that you develop when you start to network with folks on similar journeys.
  8. While building credibility – We all want to demonstrate capacity and make ourselves as valuable as possible to the marketplace. One way to do so is through experience and testimonials. Another is through higher degrees and certification. Book authorship adds yet another level of credibility and value to your work.
  9. Writing offers an outlet – Leadership, as we know, is not all fun and games. Leaders need a place where they can express themselves and share their side of things. While the point of a nook should never be vindictive, it can offer a chance to open up and release some of the emotional by products of leadership in a way that conveys thoughtfulness and growth. 

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) became an executive coach and organizational consultant following a career as an educator and school administrator. Get his free leadership e-book, “Core Essentials of Leadership.”