Use Every Experience as a Learning Opportunity


We all love to learn from great people and great leaders, but we also need to embrace learnings from those that aren’t great.  We can leverage most every experience as a learning opportunity.  Sometimes it will be to leverage the greatness that we have experienced and others will be to ensure that we don’t duplicate an unpleasant experience.

As I evolved over my career, I experienced some great leaders that have motivated me to go beyond my comfort areas and drive success where I didn’t believe it existed.  They were clear in their communications and expectations. They were very supportive leaders who would accept a failure as a milestone towards success; always leveraging the good or ensuring that I learned from the experience and put it to good use in the future.  I am sure that you too have had managers like this and would like to emulate their style as part of your leadership qualities.

Then there was the opposite end of the spectrum.  Leaders who are overly aggressive and had a more confrontational style.  Leaders who belittle you in front of others and simply aren’t motivational.  This style of leadership focused on the negatives, no matter how many positives existed.  While these leaders may be some of the most intellectually intelligent people you have worked with in the past, studies continue to show that emotional intelligence and attitude is a stronger indicator of success than IQ.

While at the end of the day, my personal belief is that both leaders are trying their best to drive success in the organization.  The HOW (how they executed) in their styles is the difference.  Nonetheless, we will all experience both types of leaders over our careers.  The challenge is how we handle these experiences and leverage them to grow our styles positively.

Leveraging the positive and nurturing experience is probably easier.  We feel good and see the positives in the style.  We can take that good feeling and translate it into how we interact with others by providing clarity in communications, inspiring to look for the positive, nurturing and encouraging when challenges occur.

On the other hand, attempting to take the negative experiences and evolve them into how you develop your style is likely more difficult.  You are experiencing something that you know you don’t like, so trying to leverage them to create your style is difficult.

First of all, as you are “in” the situation, as hard as it may be, understand that you are still gaining valuable experience.  The experience is coming from two perspectives.  First, you are in a role where you are accumulating knowledge and experience in your daily task.  This is experience that you will be able to take with you and reference over your career.  No matter how difficult the leadership is, this is something that they can’t take away from you.

Second, from a leadership perspective, you are learning how “not” to do something.  While it may be difficult to translate into direct actions for you in a leadership role.  The key learning is that you know it is a difficult situation and not a position you’d want to push on others.  Are there aspects of this leader that are good, and if leveraged differently, could help you be a better leader?  Make sure you take a mental picture of all of these instances so that when you are in a similar situation, you will be act accordingly.

The bottom line is that we will all have positive and negative learning experiences over our career.  How we learn from both will be how we mold our leadership style.  How will you leverage your experiences?

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