It’s back to school for you too!

It’s back to school for you too!

As it is every year, the first greeting by a large “back to school” display at my neighborhood grocery store is a bit unnerving.   But the fact is indisputable – it’s back to school in much of the south and it won’t be too much longer before those school supply displays are working their way north and west.  Though the reminder that another year has come and gone is not one I particularly welcome, there is always something hopeful about fresh starts.  Over the next year, children and young adults across the country will have opportunities every day for eye-opening experiences that help them grow and develop.  I think it’s important that adults don’t let the younger generations have all the fun.  With that in mind, here are some recommendations for those of you who want to build your leadership acumen.

Your kids are going to be thinking about the “three rs”:  reading, writing, and arithmetic.  So should you.  There are a multitude of leadership books published every year – not all of them are tales from a narcissist. What I recommend instead is that you stretch yourself a bit.  For example, I don’t much care for sci-fi, but one of my recent favorite “leadership” books is Orson Scott Card’s work, Ender’s Game.  I was surprised to find out that it has been used by our military academies in leadership development programs.  For another, one blogger I follow recently reminded me of how One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a wonderful example of the perils of  an authoritarian leadership style, as well as on how to build a coalition.

So that’s recommendation number one – since leadership books are rather dull and life isn’t, find a book about life that teaches leadership.  The second recommendation is to learn the lessons from these books the same way your kids will – by discussing them with a group of others who are also reading the same book.  There isn’t a single good reason you can’t manage time to invite four or five other colleagues (don’t invite more – schedules will never work out and even if they did, with that many along, some won’t make the effort to read the book –they’ll just ‘sit in’ to feel included).

The third recommendation involves the second “r” – writing.  Writing is becoming a lost art and that is too bad.  Now while it is a shame overall, it presents an opportunity for you.  A few years ago, I was working on a book where we wanted to understand how people accelerated their careers.  A common answer was by writing.  Executives told stories of how they understood that everything they wrote – particularly emails – could potentially be forwarded to multiple people.  If they wrote something bright and shared it with their boss, the likelihood was that their boss would forward it on, and so on.  So these executives did two things – they found a lot to write about – industry trends, conditions in locations where the company had investments or major customers, legal rulings that might impact the business, and so on.  Then, they worked diligently to write intelligently about these subjects and to clearly point out the implications for the company.  So consider it as homework to make sure that once a month you gather some intelligence, produce a cogent summary, articulate a case as for why the news matters to your company, and offer it to your boss as a “you know, I was wondering . . .” sort of thing.  I bet it gets forwarded along – and in a good way.

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