Learning leadership

April 12, 2013 at 9:03 am | Posted in Business | 3 Comments
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Look around you.

Look around you.

It’s been said that if you walk with two people, you should be able to teach one and learn from the other.

This dual talent is the hallmark of a leader. But not everyone ‘gets’ the second part.

Seeking help when you need it is smart, mature and practical. It benefits everyone involved (and hence your organisation).

Help is all around. It’s also above and below.

Just ask.



If you’re replacing a manager who’s gone to better things (including retirement), they can be a mine of advice and information. Time spent with them is an excellent investment.

  • Burning issues.
  • Top performers.
  • Political considerations.
  • Economic realities.
  • Painful lessons.
  • The list is long.

Forewarned is forearmed, and their field intelligence can add great power to your management campaign.


If you have a colleague (in your unit or even another organisation) you can team with them. By sharing what you learn, you double your input. You’ll also have someone to call when you’re unsure what to do.

Buddy relationships can last for decades. And as you both advance, you’ll help each other in ever more significant ways.

So try to orbit a few fellow stars.



Everyone wants to impress the boss. But it cuts both ways. It’s their responsibility to give you what you need to succeed. Yet with today’s self-directed careers, you must ensure they do.

  • If it’s your first staff termination, get your manager to do a role play with you.
  • If you’re a bit shaky on budgets, ask to watch them do theirs.

Learning from your leader has another big advantage. When they’re away, you can hold the fort.

And when they move on, you’re the logical successor.

Mentor / Coach

Depending on your level, you may be assigned a formal mentor. In some organisations, a ‘coach’ may offer informal support when you arrive.

These are both welcome resources. If neither appears, you should seek out your own.

People who become ‘masters’ in their field often wish to pass on their expertise. If they decant their wisdom into you, you’ll gain a life of lessons without learning the hard way.

Masters are also like a living encyclopaedia. If you hit a tricky task or situation, you just look them up for the answer.


Reverse Mentor

Wisdom is no longer the domain of the old.

Technology is moving too fast for anyone to keep pace. From social media to iPhones to cloud computing, you’ll need to tap specialists from time to time.

As these enthusiasts are often younger than those they help, they’re called ‘reverse mentors’. Using them saves time, money and tears.

In return for their technical advice, you can impart knowledge they’ve not had the time or opportunity to learn.

Team Member

Every office has its foibles, from the colour printer to the Kris Kringle policy. Staff who’ve spent years there know the ropes.

Ask and learn from your team. They’ll appreciate your humility (and the chance to demonstrate their expertise).

You’ll get a close look at their talents and team spirit (while avoiding embarrassing errors).


Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.


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  1. All good tips, Paul. It’s such a waste to not learn from those around us – we all have things to share regardless of where we are in a corporate structure or some other status ranking.

    • Thank you, Tash. I’m so pleased we’re on the same page. It’s kid of you to share your view. Best regards, P. 🙂

  2. This just in from our Bambi Gordon on Facebook:

    Have worked for sone great leaders who get both the leading amd learning. But unfortunately have worked with those who not only cant learn and think it is a sign of weakness but are threatened by anyone who has their own expertise. Most recent big contract was scuttled by a leader who wanted suppliers/consultants to speak when spoken to and not to display any knowledge in their own field. If you made suggestions (for which you were being paid) he would scream that he was not an idiot!

    My reply:

    Hi, Bambi; nice to see you! Alas, good leaders are pretty thin on the ground these days. I’m sorry to hear your tale of fear and loathing but there does seem to be a bit of it about. Many thanks indeed for adding your views. Kind regards, P. 🙂

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