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Posted on Jul 20, 2018

Leveraging Experience in Leadership

Leveraging Experience in Leadership

People are more likely to follow a leader with experience. It’s a value worth pursing.

Experience means the accumulation of knowledge or skill resulting from direct participation.

A leader with experience has accumulated something invaluable: knowledge and/or skills that can be applied to the real world. It’s more than just theory. It’s practical – something others can appreciate and benefit directly.

But this doesn’t mean that all experience needs to be difficult or hard won. It simply means a leader who learns from experience has an open heart and mind to observe, absorb, listen, and learn.

In fact, good leaders see everything as an experience to learn from – first for themselves, and then for others.

Leadership Questions

As a leader, if you want to leverage your experience, ponder the following questions:

  • What are the 3 most common life lessons you tend to share with others?
  • As others observe you, what are they learning from you?
  • What was the toughest lesson you’ve ever had to experienced (so far)?
  • What one piece of advice would you give to the graduating class of a local college?
  • If you were to write a book about your life experiences, what would be the title?

Improving Effectiveness through Experience

Some people claim to have attended the “school of hard knocks.” In other words, they feel they obtained their knowledge and skills the hard way. It was all hands-on.

Studies have shown that hands-on learning is an effective way to really understand a subject. It tends to stick with you. Yet, many people fail to apply the knowledge and skill they acquire through their hands-on learning.

A disregarded experience is a wasted learning opportunity.

Effective leaders use their experiences to improve their leadership abilities. Firstly on themselves. Then on their ability to lead others.

The following are two examples of leaders I wrote about a few years ago, who really leveraged their experience to benefit others.

Joseph Lister turned his experience as a surgeon in the mid 1800s to find a better way to reduce the death rate in patient operations. He invented antiseptic surgery. Lister also leveraged his knowledge about British doctors (pride and ego) to eventually convince his peers to accept his important discovery. But first he had to first become Professor of Surgery at King College Hospital in London (not a minor achievement!).

Roald Amundsen used his experience as an explorer to lead a successful mission as the first group ever to reach the South Pole in 1911. Unlike Robert Scott, the leader of a competitive crew, Amundsen relied on careful preparation, good equipment, appropriate clothing, an understanding of dogs, and the effective use of skis. Where did Amundsen acquire this knowledge and skill? From his experience crossing Canada’s Northwest Passage, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Which leaders’ experiences are you leveraging?