What a Leader Needs to Know

I still remember being promoted to my first leadership position. I was a fairly new salesperson when I was promoted to the position of General Sales Manager. I skipped several layers of leadership to reach that level. That put me in kind of a strange position. It put the people who were my bosses on Friday in an even weirder spot because the following Monday I was their boss.

Many people were shocked by my sudden rise in the organization but no one was more shocked than me. It all happened so quickly that to this day I don’t know exactly why I was promoted so far up the organizational chart. But I do know I felt like kind of a fraud. 

The people working for me had a lot more experience. They knew stuff I didn’t know. 

In fact I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. But I knew this much, many of the people suddenly working for me were very unhappy about it. They didn’t like working for someone much younger and far less experienced than them. 

So I resolved to fake it until I learned everything I would need to know to be a successful leader. 

I’m pretty sure I didn’t fool anyone…except maybe myself. 

That was many years ago and I’ve yet to learn everything I need to know to be a truly complete leader. But I’m okay with that because I now know I will never know enough to avoid every possible mistake. 

All leaders need to know that they can never know it all. They need to know that saying “I don’t know” doesn’t make them a weak leader, it makes them a human leader. 

Authentic Leaders don’t need to know more than the people they lead. In fact, the best leaders want people on their team who know things they don’t. They want people who know enough to  challenge and enlighten their thinking. 

If you’re a leader who believes they need to fake it until they know more than everyone else then you’re a leader who needs to rethink that. You can never know it all. So stop believing you need to and accept the fact that if you allow it to be, every day is an opportunity to learn something new. 

Authentic Leaders never miss that opportunity and neither should you.

Yearning for Some Learning

Successful people have a yearning for learning. The most successful people never stop learning. They know that curiosity might kill a cat but it helps a human being grow. 

A bunch of great things come from learning everyday. 

Consistent learning makes you consistently more interesting to other people. You always have something interesting to pass along. Be aware however that nobody likes a know it all so use your hunger for knowledge to better yourself, not look better to others. 

The more you learn the easier it is to relate to people different than yourself. You’ll find more in common with others. You will value the opinions of others and have more empathy for them. That empathy will make it much easier to communicate with people who you don’t normally associate with. 

Learning helps build self-confidence and self-esteem, two big factors in your success. When you know you can learn anything it’s easier to believe in yourself. It’s easier to believe you can do anything. It’s easier to believe that because if you’re willing to learn it’s a fact…you can do anything. 

If you’re a leader, or hope to one day lead, then consistently learning sets a great example for the people you lead. It’s also a great example for your kids. The people you influence will do what you do far faster then they will do what you say. You have a much better chance of helping them become consistent learners if you’re a consistent learner too. 

People who know more tend to make more…more money that is. The more we know the more we can do. The more we can do the more we can help other people. The more we help other people the more likely it is that benefits follow. The benefit of knowing you did something good follows. The benefit of making a difference in the lives of other people follows. Leaving behind a legacy of caring when you’re gone follows and yes, the benefit of more money follows as well. 

Never in human history has it been easier to learn. The internet is loaded with good information. Much of it is even true but one of the first things you need to learn is that much of it isn’t true so choose your sources of information carefully. 

There are a ton of excellent podcasts. Even more highly informative blogs. TED Talks are informative AND free. 

Plus there are books! Leaders are readers. 15 minutes a day can make all the difference between learning something new and being stuck with old ideas and old ways of doing things. 15 minutes a day. If you have convinced yourself you don’t have 15 minutes a day to read then let me suggest the very first thing you need to learn about is prioritizing the important things in life. 

You have all the time you need, what you don’t have are the right priorities. Once you figure that out you will be unstoppable. Remember, you read it here first

Learning a Little Leads to Learning a Lot

People are busy. I hear people talking all the time about the things they don’t have time to do. Sacrifices must be made in the name of time, even though we wish we didn’t have to. 

People are really busy…but are they productive? 

I’m sorry to say that in too many cases the answer to that question is a great big NO. People get so busy that they can’t even find the time to question if what they are doing is getting them closer to their goals and objectives. (Assuming of course they invested time in actually setting goals) 

I’d suggest to you that if you didn’t do something yesterday to get closer to one of your goals then no matter how busy you were you were not productive.

One of the most productive things people can do is set aside a few minutes EVERY day to learn something new. With all the blogs and podcasts available these days that’s never been easier. If you’re selective with the blogs and podcasts you read and listen to you could even learn something true. 🙂

But again, people are really busy and don’t have time to feed their brain. That’s what learning is you know, literally feeding your brain. I’m pretty sure if you can find 15 minutes a day to feed your stomach then you can find the time to feed your brain as well. 

That’s all I’m suggesting here and not even 15 minutes a day, how about 15 minutes 3 or 4 days a week. For many of us that’s far more than we’re investing in our futures today. 

Read a book, even if it takes weeks and weeks to finish it. The most successful people are big time readers. They are never far from a book. They have made a habit out of reading which is not surprise. Successful people have developed the habits of doing the things that less successful people don’t like to do…or won’t invest the time to do.

I’ll bet you can’t tell me how you used all 10,080 minutes available to you last week. But I can tell you that it’s highly likely you frittered away a good many of them. Those are minutes you’ll never get back, you’ve lost them forever. If you had invested 45 of them in learning then you have at least 45 minutes that can never be taken away from you. 

A little learning, each and every week leads to a lot of learning before you know it. Make a habit of learning something new on a regular basis; you might be surprised at how much there is to learn. 

So Much to Learn

I have been fortunate over the years to work along side some smart people. Some of them were so smart that they even knew they had a lot to learn. Unfortunately, while some of them were smart they weren’t exactly smart enough to know that they didn’t actually know it all.

I’ve learned a lot over the years myself, including this little nugget of truth…the day I’ve learned all I need to know will be my final day on earth. I have so much more to learn that I may live forever!

Several years ago I was on the interview team for an open marketing position. One candidate in particular seemed very qualified. He had great experience and at first it seemed like he would fit the culture well. The interview was pretty much done and we were just kinda talking and I mentioned I was in the process of earning a Marketing Executive Certification. We talked about all the classes involved and he stated that he would never do something like that.

When I asked him why he said, “I’ve learned all I need to know about marketing.” “There isn’t anything else left to learn.” I had worked with people who seemed to think they knew it all before but I had never before heard anyone actually say it out loud.

Now the interview was really done and so was this guy’s chances of joining our team. He was maybe in his early forties and he was convinced he knew it all. Not only knew it all, he knew all that would ever be known about marketing.

It was obvious he wouldn’t be a good fit for a company with learning in it’s DNA. I actually felt kind of bad for the guy because I knew his future was going to be full of missed opportunities and limited success.

The amount of learning a person does seems to be directly linked to the amount of success they have. Let that sink in a bit…do you understand what that actually means? It’s fantastic!

It means that since a person’s ability to learn is limitless so is their level of success. It means that so long as we keep learning our opportunities for success keep multiplying. It means that your potential success is completely within your control and totally unlimited.

That is incredible.

If you’re looking for success you now know exactly where you’ll find it. You will find it in a mentor. You will find it in a book or a classroom. You may find it in a TED talk or a blog. If you’re really committed to succeeding you will find it everywhere you look.

Keep in mind that the goal of learning isn’t packing more information into your head, it’s taking action based on that information packed into your head. Successful people never stop learning. They also never stop adapting based on what they have learned.

So…what do you have to learn today?

Learning from Mistakes

Mistakes happen. They are a part of life. With any luck they are also part of learning. Actually luck has nothing to do with it. Humility does. Honesty does. A desire to grow does. Authenticity does.

You will never learn from a mistake you will not admit. You will never learn from one of your mistakes that you attempt to blame on someone else.

People who will not admit a mistake are not much better off than the people who won’t try anything outside of their comfort zone because they are afraid of making one.

Mistakes you don’t admit you make again and again. Mistakes you blame on other people you make over and over. There is however a school of thought that says after you make the same mistake 3 or 4 times it’s not a mistake anymore, it’s a decision. I am firmly enrolled in that school.

Successful people are not afraid to admit their mistakes. They accept responsibility for them, learn from them, use what they can to grow and then they move forward towards greater success.

But even better than learning from your mistakes is learning from the mistakes of others. This is most commonly accomplished by paying attention, having a mentor and asking the right people for advice. Notice that I didn’t say asking for advice, I said asking the right people for advice.

It is my belief that the right people are those who have already accomplished something that I’m hoping to accomplish myself. The right people won’t only tell you how to do something, it’s likely they will show you. They can also provide you insights on how not to do something and that’s the advice that can help us learn from their mistakes.

I say “can help” because in order to learn from the advice of others you must be willing to both listen to the advice and do something differently than you otherwise would have because of it.

So let me offer you this advice: Make a mistake! In fact, make lots of them. A good portion of your success will be determined how fast you can make your mistakes. The rest of your success will be determined by how fast you can learn from those mistakes so you don’t repeat them. Extraordinary success will find you if you’re able to learn from the mistakes of others rather than making them yourself.

Everybody makes mistakes. Not everybody can learn from them. Which everybody are you?

Are you Determined to Learn?

If you’re not willing to learn then no one can help you. If however you are determined to learn then no one can stop you. Learning is a choice. The decision to improve your lot in life through education is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. I have never met a very successful person who hasn’t at some point in their life made the decision to learn.

Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school year and it shouldn’t stop when you’re handed a degree. It’s never been easier to learn. If you’re a bit careful where you look there is a wealth of great learning opportunities to be found on the internet.

There isn’t anyone alive you can’t learn from. Heck, thanks to that same internet you can even learn from dead people. Everyone you meet can teach you something.

People who you wouldn’t normally hang out with can teach you something. People who look and sound different than you also know things that you don’t. If you’re willing to push the limits of your comfort zone a bit and take a chance you can learn from them too.

Think for a moment about your typical conversations with people. Are you doing most of the talking? Are you talking mostly about yourself? Are you asking questions about the other person and what’s new with them?

Most people don’t ask enough questions. I suppose that’s because they don’t want to look or sound dumb. Successful people know that a person who asks what may seem to be an ill informed question might sound dumb for a moment. But the person who is too embarrassed to even ask remains ill informed for a long long time.

You’ll never learn a thing by talking to someone. What you can learn from them is limitless if only you’ll listen to them. So ask three people who know you well what you can do to be a better listener. Then DO what they tell you. You don’t have to agree with them, you do however have to follow their advice. At least if you want to be a better listener.

When a person decides that they will never stop learning their potential grows right along with their knowledge bank. But learning begins with the decision to try. If you think you already know enough then you’re really no better off than the person who thinks they know it all.

And this much we all know….no one likes a know it all.

The Best School in the World

Almost every successful person in the world attended this school. I should probably remove that “almost” qualifier and say every successful person. It is a tough school with lessons so difficult they often seem insurmountable. Some people, the less successful types, don’t even have the courage to walk through the virtual doors of this school. 

 

It’s the school known as “The School of Hard Knocks.” Some people call it the school of life.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this school it isn’t found in a building. It’s not located in any particular place. The school never closes, not even when you want it to. When you’re trying something new or working your butt off to succeed you can find yourself in this “school” with no notice. All of the sudden it just happens!

 

The “classes” taught there can be very challenging but once learned they tend to stay with you forever. They are frequently life changing. They are most often self-taught. The “tests” associated with these classes can leave scars that last a long time. Some of the scars can be seen but many of them are only felt. But the feeling can be incredibly painful. 

 

These lessons cannot be bought, they must be earned. As difficult as they can be I’d encourage anyone to attend “The School of Hard Knocks” because some of life’s best lessons are taught there. It seems as if that Hard Knocks place is the one that shows you how to use all those fancy degrees and formal education you received from the other schools.


Don’t shy away from life’s tough lessons. The stuff you learn in a school with four walls can help you make a living but the stuff you learn outside those walls can help you make a life.