Day 5-Call Me Ishmael

In response to Dailypost’s 365 writing prompts, I have dedicated a post to the first sentence of my favorite book. I hope you’ll be able to get something from it. Enjoy reading!


(picture taken while I was reading the book a few months back)

The more you know about leadership, the faster you grow as a leader and the farther you are able to go as a leader. This statement has been a constant reminder to me ever since I read the book called “The Next Generation Leader” by Andy Stanley. Leadership has always been an underrated skill in every organization. Furthermore, the author emphasizes that in today’s generation, there is a shortage of future leaders that are being trained. Another author, Jim Collins of Good to Great, also agrees in the statement who wrote the book back in 2001. We may ask “why?” There are a lot of management schools all over the world and yet leaders are lacking.

Leadership is a skill. Just like every other skill, it is to be learned and to be developed. You harness a skill by practicing or spending time doing it. I remembered the time when I was so frustrated in learning how to type because I was just trying to learn the right way. Today I am thankful that I was able to practice that skill through the years. It has been a constant necessity in every desk job whether in school or at work.  In the same way, leadership must be studied.  Aspiring leaders must know about it in order to be fully equipped in fulfilling their roles.

We can know about leadership through various ways. In this article, I summed them up into two—learning by personal experience and learning through others’ experiences.

We can know more about leadership by actually doing it. In agreement to the saying “practice makes perfect”, leadership skills are enhanced on a lifelong learning basis. The more we take opportunities to lead, the faster we can grow as a leader. And we can grow the fastest if we are given the opportunities to make our own decisions. We grow by making your own choices. And we learn by failing. We may not totally agree with this but it’s true. Looking back, I had my own share of “takeaways” as a leader.

One of my greatest failures was being very self-opinionated. Every time I ask for opinions, I would disregard them because I was looking for a similar opinion as mine. I was not aware that my closed-mindedness actually hurt my teammates. There was a time when my sisters, our friends and I were playing. They would suggest the plot of the story but it always ended up getting told by what I want. I felt good and I didn’t care. Through the years, I learned to value the opinion of others. There was one time that I really felt good about it. It was when we were planning for a Christmas party for the employees in the supermarket of my aunt. I delegated specific tasks to them and trusted that they can deliver the job. I expected that their output might be not as I thought would be but it will surely be fine. It took me several years to realize that because I did not seek help from other people.

This leads to my second greatest failure. And that is always speaking instead of listening. We see in movies that men in suits always dictate. They have a charismatic appeal that whenever they enter the board room, they tell others what they want and the meeting is called to an end. They give speeches in front of the shareholders. They conduct press conferences. Leaders are always viewed as good speakers and so I thought. Negotiations professor George Siedel disagrees and so are other leadership experts. Leaders must be able to listen to its people more than he or she speaks. Good leaders are able to understand what the people are going through. They are able to ask a lot of questions and able to observe the surroundings. In the same book, Jim Collins found out that the top leaders of great companies in comparison to good companies have personalities that are reflective, observant and silent type. They do not always have a charismatic appeal and are not always good in public speaking. But they are able to understand where the company is heading and that is what makes a good leader.

I can just enumerate every other failure I made while taking on leadership positions like taking the tasks on my own and not developing my leadership skills.  The list goes on. But I am glad I came to a point of understanding that these are all wrong. I am thankful that even though it took time for me to be able to understand my shortcomings, there are people who have gone ahead. I am thankful for the people who are more than willing to share the same experiences.

We can know more about leadership by learning from others. Learning from others entails a careful examination of how they react to circumstances—what went right and what went wrong. We also need to be humble enough to accept corrections from our current practices compared to theirs. It requires us to be open minded so that we are able to learn from others.

We can learn from others through coaching. Most companies train their next CEOs by this method. They let the current CEO and other organization’s leaders to equip the next leader in line in order to carry on the duties required for the role. Coaching, like any other leadership tool, is costly. It requires both parties to be fully committed. The coach is required to observe how the student acts on a certain aspect. An example would be handling meetings. The coach must be present in the meeting where the student presides. Afterwards, he or she comments on his or her behavior. Although coaching is seen as costly, I believe that there is an alternative. It is in the form of a feedback.

We can learn from others by asking feedbacks. Feedbacks are a great way to check whether what you are doing is in accordance to what you believe is to be done right. Asking feedbacks from others will allow us to know how we did. Besides they talk behind our backs anyway. As I have mentioned above, I was blindly thinking that I am doing right when I was asking others’ opinions. Clearly, I wasn’t. If I had developed that attitude sooner, I would have avoided the same scenario repeated several times. We can ask for feedbacks from others when we conduct meetings, conduct public speaking, do negotiations, write, speak and other things that we regularly do. When I read Andy’s book, I was eager to apply it. On the first day of our communication class, I asked the professor how I did when I was introducing myself. Afterwards, I felt bad.  I thought I did well but clearly I did not. It was heartbreaking but I was determined that I will do better next time.

We can also learn from others by reading books. This is where I do most of my learning from leadership as of the moment. I am thankful that authors like Jim Collins, John Maxwell and Andy Stanley are generous enough to share principles, examples, experiences and suggestions on how to be equipped as a leader.

We can also learn by asking others their experiences. Top leaders in every organization, although granted such a prestigious position, still attend to leadership trainings and seminars. A well-known leadership training is conducted by Harvard Business School and is even attended by executives all over the world.

The more you know about leadership, the faster you grow as a leader and the farther you are able to go as a leader. The more we know about leadership, the more we should reflect. We can get most out of our experiences and others’ when we know how we did it. Just as it takes a lifetime to develop an attitude, it will take us the same to cultivate our leadership skills. But if we don’t enhance these skills now, we would waste our days trying to do it the wrong way. We would not be able to have the maximum impact that is needed to inspire the people we lead. We can never perfect it but each day we can make progress.


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