Leaders Go Back to School


It’s that time of year again. Students are headed back to school. In the U.S., approximately 77 million children, teenagers, and adults of all ages embark on a learning journey this fall. Some of them approach that journey with excitement and anticipation. Others feel fear and dread. When I was a student, I felt a mixture of anticipation and fear each August. Looking back on the experience, I uncover a few lessons for leaders.

Do Something New

Part of what I enjoyed each fall was that I would be exploring personally uncharted territory. I would be exposed to new ideas, new information, and new challenges. All of these combined together to expand my way of thinking and how I viewed the world. This helps leaders see problems in new ways—and create new solutions, too.

Meet New People

Making new friends is not easy for me. My fellow introverts understand the comfort and safety of old friends. Nevertheless, meeting new people can also be exciting because the introduction of a new person into my world is like adding some special flavoring or spice to a dish. The dynamics and experience change. Meeting new people also creates connections to new opportunities and brings new resources to the team.

Stop Doing Something Old

Making time for classes each fall also required that I stop doing other things. For me, transitioning from summer break to the school year usually meant giving up something good like biking, or having breakfast on the patio in the morning. However, I also made way for things that had much greater potential for positive impact in my life (see the two points above). Leaders need to assess what they’re doing and get rid of the bad and merely good things. (See my previous article The Sick, Dead, and Merely Good.)

Envision a Grander Future

Perhaps the most important dynamic of going to school is that the purpose is to create a better future. Institutions of education talk a lot about “preparing tomorrow’s leaders.” It’s rather cliché, but it’s true. The purpose of education is to impart knowledge, provide experience, and develop skills so that individuals can influence the future. That sounds a lot like leadership! Leaders need to be actively engaged, today, in envisioning a grander future.

Leaders need to be more like students: They need to 1) do new things, 2) meet new people, 3) stop doing old things, and 4) envision a better tomorrow. Leaders are not stuck in the past or even the present. They are actively engaged and fully invest themselves into tomorrow.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Photo “Students of Saint Mary’s” by Robert of Fairfax. Available at Flickr.com.

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