8.5 Legendary Leadership Lessons Learned the Hard Way

By September 26, 2019 October 2nd, 2019 Articles on Leadership

Last Updated on October 2, 2019 by Dave Schoenbeck

I’ve experienced quite a few leadership lessons learned throughout my 40 years of leading people. Many of them are the types of lessons that seem like common sense on paper but are difficult to put into practice.

Man looking at piece of paper that says "lessons learned"These leadership lessons learned throughout the years were hard-won, crystallized only after I made many mistakes.

I want to share these 8.5 quick leadership lessons with you in the hopes that my words will spare you some of the trial-and-error that so often comes along with honing your leadership style. 

  1. Execution always trumps strategy. Getting tactics implemented quickly is still more relevant and useful than ornate, elaborate, delayed approach. Urgency and speed wins over perfection every time. Getting the plan 80% right, and implementing it well is better than delaying a perfect plan. You can always fix the other 20% on the fly. 
  2. Success is regulated by the talent of your team. The smartest, most focused, best trained, and most motivated teams create the most progress and profits. Always look for ways to enhance and upgrade the depth and talent of your organization. The leadership lessons learned by your team will have a positive impact on your company as a whole. 
  3. Your team is always watching. Since you are always on stage, you need to be consistently at your best in words and deeds. You have an impact even when you don’t think anyone notices or cares. What you think is a random comment can have a career-changing effect on your listener. Don’t underestimate your power to influence.
  4. We sometimes think that just because we said something brilliant, that means it was heard and then acted on. This is rarely true. Your team will struggle to understand what you said and will interpret it through their filter system. You are only effective in communicating when they can correctly repeat your message back to you and ultimately act on it.
  5. Servant leadership is the most effective way to lead a professional team. Your main goal should be to serve your employees and your customers, not the other way around. Please read this article that I wrote about servant leadership. 
  6. Expectations can only be met after you tell your team how to act and behave. Creating a written code of conduct or guiding document is the only effective way to help them when you aren’t available. This also frees you from having to be in attendance for all of the decisions that must be made. Leverage yourself by writing out what you expect. 
  7. Don’t expect what you don’t inspect. If you take the time to ask the tough questions about progress and compliance, you will get more focus and follow-through. Be curious and ask lots of questions. The more you probe, the more you know if you are getting what you asked for. Repetition builds muscle tone for your business.
  8. One of the significant differences between good and great people is their ability to think strategically versus following a process. Influential leaders have one foot in the future and can forecast how today’s decisions will be realized on the horizon. The folks that live entirely in the now have a place, but they are not your future senior leaders. 
  9. Take the time to document the values that are important to you and your organization, and then hire and develop teammates that share those values. It’s beneficial to have different types of people on your team, but they must be aligned to your proclaimed values. When you determine those values, you determine the future of your organization. 

My leadership lessons learned throughout the years did not come easy, but each one hammered me into the mentor I am today. If you take anything away from this list, I hope it’s the knowledge that good leadership is not a destination—it’s a journey we all must continue to walk every day. 

What do you learn from leadership experience? If you need help turning leadership advice into real practice, sign up to receive my free blog articles or fill out my contact form for a complimentary session to discuss how to hone your leadership skills.


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