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Executives As Students of Leadership – It Works!

I often ask “How have you learned to be a successful leader?” Answers vary from “I had a good boss once (or a bad boss)and I learned fast” to “I spent a week at an executive education program” to a shrug followed by “don’t know.” My coaching experiences often have a “study” element. People get better at leadership not just with on-the-job training but by becoming students of leadership.

I often ask “How have you learned to be a successful leader?” Answers vary from “I had a good boss once (or a bad boss)and I learned fast” to “I spent a week at an executive education program” to a shrug followed by “don’t know.” My coaching experiences often have a “study” element. People get better at leadership not just with on-the-job training but by becoming students of leadership.

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Books work for some executives, especially Lencioni’s fable formats in The Five Temptations of a CEO, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and The Four Obsession of an Extraordinary Executive. I’ll be sending a CEO my earmarked and highlighted copy of Leading Quietly by Baccardo tomorrow.

Given their schedules however, chapters from books and articles work better for most. Goldsmith’s column (All of Us Are Such Suckups, Dec. 2003 FC) got emailed to an executive who’s having trouble asking for feedback and Chapter 7 of The Transparency Edge is sent to all those who are forgetting about how valuing and appreciating others builds a credible reputation. Chapters in Why CEO’s Fail: 11 Behaviors That Can Derail Your Climb to the Top and How to Manage Them are stand-alone fodder for taking a look at what might be getting in an executives way.

But it’s not an avalanche of material that makes this work. Every decision is tailored to the needs of each individual. Then they decide what’s best for them.

The learning happens with our follow-up discussion. What did you learn? What ideas can you adapt? What are the barriers and how can you overcome them?

Leaders need to learn about what works and what doesn’t in leadership any way they can. Earlier comments still have me thinking about a weekly TV sitcom that I’d probably call, “The Boss.” I’d like to direct that! Imagine executives all over the world programming their Tivo’s for their weekly “learning assignment”!