Welcome to the sixth installment of the 10 Things You Do Not Know About Leadership. In this weekly, series I cover topics that tend to be overlooked, forgotten, or completely misunderstood. By sharing with you, it is my hope and belief that I help in eradicating many of misconceptions that come with leadership.
#6. LEADERSHIP IS NEVER LEARNED FROM A BOOK
As previously mentioned, there are countless books on Leadership (mine included). Those books are a tool, a guide but NEVER a substitution for actually doing. Books should always be used as a guide, a starting point but never the end all, be all. Books are never used as instead of getting out there and doing it, making it happen. So do not for one second believe there is that one book that will be the only book you will ever need when it comes to leadership. Actually, that one book should be a jumping off point for more books, ideas and concepts.
All current or future leaders, must always be expanding their knowledge, gaining experience and thus increasing wisdom. Putting all your faith in just one book will never suffice. That one book should lead you towards expanding your horizons and thus reading more books, putting the lessons those books share into action.
Let’s look at this from a different perspective when it comes to turning reading about things into doing those things. Currently, there are countless books, articles, and videos on how to start a campfire. While the how to start a campfire catalogue is near infinite, nothing and I do mean nothing will ever compare to actually starting a campfire. However, there are so many ways to start a fire, each has its purpose and process. Discover the other ways of starting a campfire.
Well, the same applies to knitting, jogging, and of course, Leadership. You can read and listen and watch but all that is moot until you are actually out there taking those steps to leading. Until you are out there dealing with those you are responsible for, until you are doing your part to accomplish the mission then will you be putting the words into action.
In 1871 Helmuth von Moltke (Prussian Army Chief of Staff) wrote, “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy forces.” That same concept applies to reading about leadership versus actually trying to lead.
When reading about any leadership concept or idea, in any book, know that the concepts or ideas are set in a perfect environment, with everything in its proper place and the responses and reactions are anticipated, expected and there is a solution for everything. Of course, as in battle and just like in life, nothing is ever perfect, nothing is ever in its proper place. Plans have a knack for going awry.
Thus, it should serve as a warning that depending too much on the words written in any book without actually trying to put into practice what you have read. By practice, I mean, create situations of failure. As nothing is perfect and no matter if you read one book or thousands of book on the subject of leadership you will fail. However, by practicing to fail, the chances of actually failing, especially when it is time to put steel on target, will exponentially decrease. Remember, failing to prepare for that letdown will all but ensure no chance of success.
One other thing to consider when it comes to putting what you read into action. Know that what you read should be taken with a grain of salt and will NOT work if you act on what you read word for word. Take your time to understand what you read before employing any tactic or strategy.
What you read will work or fail only when you get out there and DO! Then you will know. However, never for one second believe that because the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People| worked for Dr. Stephen Covey or “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” worked for John C. Maxwell, it will most certainly work for you.
It worked for them because they made change happen in their lives. They took what was there before them and made it unique to them. They did the homework. They saw that things were not happening and asked themselves what next. They went to work on themselves by figuring out what needed to be done to effectively answer the question of what next?
That is what prompted me to write The Walking Leader. I read about Managing By Walking Around, MBWA if you will, but nowhere could I find how to do it. It was as if by magic or osmosis, people would just know how to get out there and do the MBWA thing. Not finding answers, I came up with the twenty rules or guide or principles to getting out from behind your desk and making things happen.
I put my unique spin on managing by walking around in The Walking Leader and you must put your own unique spin on what you have read, been taught, learned and then get to work. Get to work on NEVER exactly copying anyone’s leadership style. Again, what worked for Napoleon Hill, Tom Peters, Dale Carnegie, Patricia Thompson, and countless others will not work for you. I promise you that much.
What will work for you is making your own leadership style and fine tuning it to suit your unique perspectives and situation. Take what all those books are sharing, the authors imparting their knowledge onto you. Take that knowledge and wisdom flip it, spin it, toss it around and make it your own. Then get to work.