10 Tips on Learning to Lead


Leadership is an apprentice trade. In most apprentice trades, you learn about 20 percent in the classroom and from books.

The rest, 80 percent, you learn on the job. Here are ten tips on how to do master your own apprenticeship:

Pick good role models. Pick out some great leaders to emulate. Then, when you’re faced with a leadership problem, ask yourself how your role models would handle the situation.

Find a mentor or two or three. Mentors are people who provide wisdom and guidance. Mentors are the masters in your personal leadership apprentice program. A good mentor will enjoy helping you sort out your career and leadership challenges. You may have many mentors during your career.

Ask how you’re doing. Good feedback is essential to efficient and effective growth. Ask your boss, your peers and the people who work for you how you’re doing. Ask how you might do better.

Critique your own performance. Every time you take a significant leadership action, make sure you also do an after-action critique. Ask yourself what you wanted to accomplish, what you did, and how things came out. Decide what you’ll do the same and differently next time.

Talk to other leaders. People who have been bosses for a while have had to deal with many leadership situations. Talk over your problems with them. Adapt their advice to your situation and your personal style.

Seek development opportunities. Development opportunities are assignments where you get to stretch yourself, learn new skills, gain new perspective and increase your visibility.

Take classes. Classes can give you new ideas or help you develop specific skills. Pick classes that give you solid take-away value. Sometimes you’ll find that the take-away value lies in the relationships you establish or build with other class participants.

Read books. There are a lot of good ones out there, but there are a lot more that don’t have much to say. Consider reading history and the biographies of leaders to see how they did things. Read business books for content or because “everybody” is reading it. If you’re not getting value from a book, stop reading.

Have a plan. You don’t need a super-detailed, step-by-step, three-binder-filling plan. But you do need an idea of the direction you want to go and what your development priorities are.

Review regularly. That means review your plan and review your development. I suggest taking a little time every week to review how you’re doing and growing. Take a little time at least every month to check your plan make sure it’s still want you need.

You are the person who will determine what kind of leader you become. You are the person who will set direction, gather feedback and make course corrections. You are the person who will choose books and courses that will help you grow, and try to line up assignments that will help improve your skills, perspective, relationships, and visibility. And, you are the person who will reap the rewards.

About the Author

Wally Bock, of Three Star Leadership is an author, speaker, consultant and coach who helps leaders improve the performance and morale of their teams.

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