Six Concepts that Visitor-Serving Organizations Confuse at Their Own Risk

For the sake of the future of cultural organizations, let's stop mixing up these terms.  There’s a good amount of Read more

Combating Case Study Envy Within Museums And Cultural Organizations (DATA)

Bad things happen to good organizations when conference attendees leave their thinking caps at home. Industry conferences can provide Read more

Point of Reference Sensitivity in Visitors: How It Affects Your Cultural Organization And What To Do About It

Data suggest that it's good to to be the first organization that someone visits... but what if yours is Read more

Millennial Data Round Up: What Your Cultural Organization Needs To Know

This is what you need to know in one, single post. Millennials are a hot topic. While I consider "millennials" Read more

Experiencing Millennial Discussion Overload? Here Are Four Things to Remember

Cultural organizations need to reach millennials and that means talking about it – but that talk doesn’t make other Read more

Audience Access: The Reality For Cultural Organizations To Embrace for Solvency

The first step in the evolution toward more sustainable cultural organizations is embracing the reality of "access" and reviewing Read more

how to be a leader

How to Lead with Empathy: Read Fiction

It’s no surprise that great change-makers and business leaders (like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Nelson Mandela), when asked about their favorite book, say something like “The Great Gatsby” rather than “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” Perhaps this is because fiction influences people in its own right; it makes readers better leaders.

Looking to hone your leadership skills? Here are five reasons why you should pick up a work of fiction:


Hemingway's 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' is a favorite book of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

1. Fiction helps you understand other people’s emotions.

A study by the Journal of Research in Personality uncovered that readers of narrative fiction score highly on tests of empathy and social acumen. Not only that, but they score more highly on tests involving social reasoning . This kind of skill allows great leaders to connect with others on an emotional level, and it provides them with the emotional basis to tell compelling stories that engage others.


2. Fiction increases social ability.

Reading fiction puts you in somebody else’s head, and studies show that this is good practice for us in our ability to relate— not just to people on a one-on-one level– but to groups and in differing social situations. Fiction provides information on how and why people react to combinations of social forces, and by putting ourselves in the mind of the main character, we are challenging our own perspectives. This skill comes in handy for every leader, but you can imagine that a politician without high levels of emotional intelligence and with a less-than-perfect ability to maneuver socially might not retain favorable polls for very long.


3. Fiction enriches brain functioning.

Of all of our organs, the brain is the only one that will continue to grow and function if we nourish it properly. Reading fiction provides your brain with new scenarios that buff up our brains. And fiction gets us more involved than you might think: our brains are responsible for constructing the voices, appearances, gestures, and even smells of characters and scenes in novels. When we watch a play or see a film, many of these interpretations are resolved for us– so here’s a brain-enriching tip: read the book before you see the movie.


'War and Peace' became Nelson Mandela's favorite book when he read it during his years in prison in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela first read his favorite book, 'War and Peace,' while in prison in South Africa.

4. Fiction makes you more creative.

According to research conducted at Emory University, the brain’s reward pathways respond more strongly to unexpected stimuli rather than expected stimuli. Fiction, more so than other genres of literature, provides the most unexpected stimuli. Readers’ brains light up as they face new scenarios. Being exposed to these kinds of creative forces teaches our minds to think and act creatively in return. Want to perfect your creative problem-solving skills? Studies say that detective fiction will help.


5. Fiction makes you smarter. Fiction makes you smarter in two ways. First, reading has been shown to increase vocabulary and vocabulary is arguably the best single predictor of occupational success. Second, fiction exposes you to different time periods and cultures. It’s impossible to read The Great Gatsby without getting a sense of the prosperity of the roaring twenties in America. The Grapes of Wrath takes readers back to the Great Depression. Not only do readers get a professionally beneficial dose of vocabulary by reading fiction, but they also get an engaging history lesson and taste of other cultures.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Miscellaneous, Nonprofit Marketing 1 Comment