Updated: May 28
I once worked for a leader whose leadership style and abilities were built almost entirely out of the leadership that he had seen and experienced.
Isn't this the best way to learn leadership?
It can be a great way to INITIALLY learn general leadership fundamentals - though only if the people that you are watching and learning from are themselves proven, good leaders.
But good leadership is often crafted to fit the situation and circumstances that the leader finds himself/herself in. And that is the problem with learning leadership exclusively through the above means. You often don't know a lot of the "why" behind many of the decisions made and "levers pulled".
The leader I mentioned above had previously seen past leaders effectively do certain things to affect needed changes, but we he pulled the same levers in the same fashion, not only did things not get better - he made things worse and worse.
Two main reasons:
1. The problems that he was trying to address had different nuances than the problems that he had seen addressed in the past.
2. He hadn't created the environment that past leaders had created in order to be able to pull the levers that they pulled, and have it yield positive results.
Why hadn't he accounted for these things? Because he didn't know to. He had assumed that leadership was an operational function... "pull the right levers and have these specific conversations, and anyone can lead well."
But leadership does not work that way. It often isn't that black and white, and thinking that it was left him reeling for answers. In fact, I remember his repeated exacerbation at not knowing what to do to get his teams moving in the direction that they should be going.
Have you ever been there... are you there right now?
Don't try and grind it out alone. He did, and I will never forget his very emotional forced resignation as a result.