One of my favorite things about the Harvard Business Review IdeaCast is the exceptionally diverse list of topics they cover each week.
June 20th's IdeaCast was titled Read Fiction and Be a Better Leader which featured a discussion with Harvard Business School professor Joseph Badaracco over a course he teaches around leadership and (fiction) literature.
Badaracco breaks down fiction's unique role in training leaders at all levels due to the inherent intensity and increased perspectives that exist in fictional work.
My view of what makes literature so valuable in the classroom is that it helps students really get inside individuals who are making decisions. It helps them see things as these people in the stories actually see them. And that's because the inner life of the characters is imagined and described, in many cases, by brilliant writers whose sense of how people really think and how they really work have been tested by time over decades or even centuries.
I typically don't read much fiction, but after listening to this IdeaCast I think there might be some additional value here besides entertainment.
Overall, this was a good listen and I recommend it for anyone interested in improving their leadership skills.
For those of you wondering how to put this into practice it's as easy as reading a book you are interested in and asking some tough questions about how you would respond in a similar situation.
In almost every book, there's somebody who takes initiative and who is a kind of leader. They may not be a heroic leader. It's often a version of quiet leadership, somebody working behind the scenes. And ask some good HBS questions. Did they get these decisions right? Did they think about them in the right way? Would you have handled them differently? Why did they do what they did? Trying to get inside not just the characters as characters, but characters as members of an organization and people trying to shape it.