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Blog, Tip of the Week

Leadership is a Skill, Not a Trait: 7 Tips for Success

What is the one most potent drive that humans have? Is it physical survival? To a degree, yes. But if we need only to address our basic needs to live, why do we strive for something more?

There is a secondary drive in humans that at times overrides even our physical survival. Some set out to climb Everest. Others leave their mark with literature or art.

Everyone, in their own respect, is looking for their way to be heard.

On the one hand, being heard implies projecting your ideas onto someone else. On another, it indicates that someone will listen. So how does one get the authority and expertise that makes them a leader?

Kamyar Shah, fractional COO/CMO, addressed the question in an interview with Coruzant. He responded above all that knowledge and lifelong learning is the key to leadership.

What is his motivation to learn? It’s not leadership. It’s not even advancing in his career.

His motivation to learn, he answered, is waking up every day “not knowing” and wanting to change that.

The beauty of this is that it shows anyone can become a leader in their field. Don’t get overwhelmed by the mountain ahead. The climb is as easy as taking the first step.

1. Admit you don’t know

As mentioned by Shah, what drives him is the desire to know. Not knowing is the spark that motivated him to take over 100 courses in the last year. It took him from a call center to a fractional COO for seven different companies. Assuming that you don’t know is not the same as an admission of weakness. It’s the first step to gaining knowledge.

There will always be knowledge gaps and misunderstandings. Identifying them can help clear up misconceptions to communicate your message clearer. For example, alternative lenders face many communication gaps with their own clients. As discussed in this article, the responsibility is on them to lead and close these gaps.

2. Use free resources

Traditional education offers in-depth coverage of the topic at hand. But, the cost and time constrictions limit its practicality for some. What’s most important is what you learn, not following the standard means of getting there. Take advantage of other resources if you have time or financial constraints. Some options include webinars, LinkedIn learning, online conferences, and video lectures.

3. Get in-depth coverage

Short videos and blog posts have great introductory value for a topic. However, don’t forget to build on that information. Coupling easily digestible information with in-depth coverage gives invaluable context. Without this, it is harder to make sure that you have the context to apply your knowledge.

Consider listening to a lecture series, reading a book, or taking online courses. Remember that you can always ask someone with more experience than you, bringing us to the next point.

4. Talk to other professionals

Some of the most practical knowledge you can find comes from the people that use it every day.  Talking with other professionals is an underutilized and crucial tool for learning. It adds the value of connecting with a source of direct experience in a given niche. If you have a particular question or want to hear more about why some use a specific process in their work, ask. Find out where the leaders of your industry go. Are they in LinkedIn groups or on forums? Are there conferences or other meetups that they frequent? There’s value in surrounding yourself not with people like you but with people like who you want to be.

5. Always aim to prove yourself wrong

The scientific method sets out to prove a proposed hypothesis wrong. Experiments exist only to see if the belief holds up. Only after every attempt fails to bring another conclusion is it trusted.

Like researchers, only after trying to prove our assumptions wrong will we see what’s right. Even illusions can hide a nugget of truth. When you encounter failure, learn everything you can from it. Change your process, try again, and each time you’ll come closer to success.

Woman sitting on concrete steps with laptop


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

6. Use diverse sources of information

Every person puts their perspective and options into their work. Often, even the author is unaware. When you see diverse perspectives on the same information, it’s easier to see what they have in common.

The Chaldean Oracles and ancient wise men would invite people to partake in acts of collective reason. Often, they invited others, saying, “Come now, let us reason together.” Once you have enough perspectives to see what varies from person to person, you begin to pick out the truth. As you practice this, the process gets quicker, and even your own biases will yield to facts.

7. Apply your knowledge through action

Even the knowledge of the most educated individual doesn’t mean a thing until tested. For example, a person can spend their life studying the maintenance of cars. They can spend every day reading, watching videos, and observing. Does this make them a mechanic?

Not until they fix a car.

The best testing ground for your newfound knowledge is applying it every day in real life. It may not feel like progress at first, but even your struggles are a form of movement. Only after practice and application will you look back and see how far you’ve come.

Summary

Industry leaders are created through a lifetime of learning. It’s not about what resources you do or don’t have. All you need is the want to know, the openness to grow, and the willingness to try, fail, and try again. The following growth reaches much further than your career or even your industry. It provides tools you’ll have for life.

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