Open Your Eyes To What’s Textbook Today, Or Get An Abrupt Wake-Up Call Tomorrow.

Leadership Lessons: Although leadership development, like personal development, can (and should) be a life-long, deep, rich process, there are basic, common sense lessons you should seek out for whatever you’re getting into.

It’s amazing how many times, when I hear about leaders lacking in how they influence their environment, or not demonstrating even the most basic leadership qualities in their leadership role at all, I think to myself But how? That’s so textbook!

Whether we’re an official leader or not, there are basic building blocks we need to understand for whatever we want to take on. But recognizing, understanding, and building off those blocks can’t begin if we don’t first patiently look at ourselves and seek out the basic tools around us we can use to get going effectively.

Unfortunately, though, most of us gravitate so quickly toward trying to strike while the iron is hot, take as much on as we can, and make the best impression we believe possible, that we seem to go in blind with high energy but low focus.

I’ve studied leadership in school and in the real world, researched it, broken it down and created programs for my clients to work forward with more self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-awareness. It begins with the self because, before building anything above who we are today, we need to take into account what we’re currently doing.

So, in terms of a client’s work, before even building and developing new ideas and perceptions of who they can be, we’re breaking down both their current approach to and understanding of their role and their environment.

And, admittedly, coaching work can be complex. But looking for the basic building blocks of understanding for what you’re trying to become doesn’t have to be.

Before anything — even before getting a coach or some outside help — look at yourself honestly.

Related: How Strong is Your Voice for Your Value? What Will You Show Others?

Admittedly, that’s where most of the coaching improvements originate — clients simply realizing the little things they haven’t taken into account or harnessed to make their leadership, and themselves overall, more effective.

And we have access to all those little insights and tidbits for development.

Everyday access.

At our fingertips.

All around us.

When it comes to learning and the information that is available to us, in the late 1800’s and before that, it used to be that you had to be in an elite school to learn anything substantial. Heading into the 1900’s, public libraries became more commonplace — a service to and right of the people.

Later, with the expansion of that public access, the field of management formally gained traction and exposure through the publication of books and manuals as early as the 1920’s. Later, in the 1980’s, 1990’s, and beyond, the number of leadership books and writers explodes. For both those disciplines, tens if not hundreds of thousands of books have been written to date. (Yes, leadership and management are two separate disciplines.)

Coinciding with that explosion of attention to management and leadership have been all the far wider reaching forms of access we now have to it. In addition to traditional books, in the 1990’s, the internet picked up steam. In the 2000’s, blogging was born. In the 2010’s, video content became the go-to form of connection with audiences, becoming exponentially prolific with the explosion of YouTube and its daily, hourly, by-the-minute contributions. Hell, nowadays, anyone can upload video to a website of their own making.

Information is out there, everywhere we look, of every variety, field, and form, ready for consumption.

So how are leaders — or, hell, all of us — still suffering from the most common sense issues and roadblocks, if they’re so textbook?

What I mean by them being so textbook is that the basic ideas of how to approach any field, idea, discipline, etc., are available to us anywhere we choose to look. Right at our fingertips we can find any book on Amazon, video topic on YouTube, or article on You-Name-It website covering any topic we want to learn a bit more about.

Related In The Books Podcast
Episode 7: The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary
Things Happen In Organizations

by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner

My point: Access to insight, experience, perceptions, and ideas is only growing, so there’s no excuse for any of us to not have a very basic understanding of what to seek out, what to exhibit, and what to avoid, especially when it comes to leadership.

So when it comes to you, what out of all those sources of available information and formats are you taking advantage of?

What are you taking upon yourself to learn? Before diving into the deep end of a specialty, what are you going to learn before even going into the shallows? What can you bring to the table in terms of everyday, common sense understanding?

When it comes to leadership, what are you choosing (and curious) to learn in terms of listening, self-awareness, facilitation, mediation, collaboration, and ongoing improvement, just to name a few?

Too many leaders come in to their new assignments hard-charging through their tunnel vision, doing and managing the work but not improving the environment itself. (Always keep in mind what you can learn from the environment itself!)

And, yes, management is important to improving the processes and functions of an environment. But when it comes to leadership, how are you waking up, empowering, encouraging, engaging, firing up, and listening to your people to nail that job, process, or function and make it better.

So, what’s your textbook? What are the basic premises you should consider? What’s the basic understanding you should have? What advice are you seeking? Which of all those sources listed above — to start — have you sought out to minimize your own blind spots? Which perspectives are you comparing?

Consider all of this in an effort to get better — and avoid seeming aloof.

Wake up to what’s around you today or get an unexpected wake-up call tomorrow!

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