A few months ago I attended a leadership conference and I walked away utterly disappointed. It wasn’t due to a lack of great speakers with celebrity names strategically selected to entertain us and share stories to inspire us. That was all good. And of course, in the lobby, the latest leadership book was eagerly awaiting a purchase. Nothing wrong with selling books either. Even the “leadership experts” admit that there is an overload of information on the topic of leadership, but we still lack a majority of good solid leaders. In fact, if you search “leadership books” on Amazon you will see 1 of 16 of over 200,000 results in the upper left corner. With so much information available on leadership, why aren’t we swept away by an overwhelming abundance of influential leaders in our businesses and communities?
It hit me as I listened to the conference speakers sharing their point of view. They knew a lot about theory but lacked the experience of leading a team of people. As I heard opinions that just didn’t apply to the real-world, it occurred to me that our society has turned the topic of leadership into an overly complicated science fair attempting to earn the blue ribbon for the most scholarly theory vs. the practical hard work of producing real leaders that lead people well. It reminds me of the business professor teaching about running a business who has never operated a business of their own. It doesn’t make them a lousy professor just a limited teacher that can only take us so far.
It’s the same for leadership experts who have not spent years leading teams and business transformations inside of a company or an organization. It doesn’t make them a lousy expert just a limited teacher that can only take us so far.
Indeed, there are many great writings on the leadership topic and fundamental principles that should become a leaders foundation. The best way to learn about leadership is to find and follow the good ones. Learn from them and practice what they do. It could not be more uncomplicated and straightforward than that. I learned all that I know about leading people from great leaders who led me. I also learned a great deal about leadership from bad leaders and what not to do. I made lots of mistakes and chose to learn from those and not repeat them. That’s roll up your sleeves experience from the school of real life business.
Companies who invest in equipping themselves with leadership skills, who in-turn equip others, gain the most significant success and see long-term growth. Those who continue down the path of status quo continue to be stagnant or decline.
How do you weed out the theorists from experienced leaders? Hire leadership trainers, coaches, and speakers who have the background and experience leading teams and companies who will provide an intimate understanding of the real-world of leadership.