How to Put Yourself Through Leadership School…Every Day

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Every day, and every situation, can provide compelling leadership lessons and principles, if you are open to recognize them.

That was the perspective I took with me on my just completed leadership trip through Australia and India. It was a trip that quickly reminded me that every day can be a day in leadership school.

Regular readers of this blog and of my Twitter feed will know that my role with the Willow Creek Association involves quite a bit of global travel, working with our partners in the development of the Global Leadership Summit worldwide.

And so while this particular trip was simply another in a long line of such travels, this time I took with me a heightened intentionality to keep my “leadership learning” radar on full alert.

Here’s a quick summary of what I came away with…

Willow Creek Association Australia Board

Day 1: Leaders must have the fortitude to allow them to “not sweat the small stuff”.
I managed to get from Chicago to San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, incident free. But, wouldn’t you know it, on the brief flight from Sydney to Brisbane the airline misplaced my suitcase.

But I knew I couldn’t allow this irritation from taking my eye off the leadership ball; I was in Australia to participate in critical planning with the board of WCA Australia, and this would require my full attention.

The bag showed up a day later. But more importantly, I managed to keep my focus where I needed it to be.

Day 2: Effective leaders build on ideas; they don’t tear them down.
The first day of planning with the WCA Australia board saw this team of leaders put on a clinic in teamwork and planning.

There was lots of passion in the room, and plenty of ideas being tossed around. What impressed me was that each idea served as a platform for building an even better idea.

Egos were left at the door. These leaders reminded me that, when it comes to planning, we need to be in the construction business, not the deconstruction business.

Day 3: Without timelines and accountabilities even the best ideas will quickly evaporate.
On the second and final day of our planning in Australia, Stu Cameron, the board chairman, took us methodically through each action item we had landed on, and made sure each one had a timeline attached and a person accountable for it.

It demonstrated once again that the best planning in the world means nothing if it is not followed with specific action steps and, most importantly, someone accountable to make it happen.

Day 4: The primary job of a leader is to solve problems.
My travels took me from Australia to India via Singapore. It was there that I recognized that I had a concerning problem. My passport was almost full, and because of another mix-up with my suitcase, it would have to be stamped in Singapore. I could run out of passport pages before I finished my trip.

Faced with this dilemma I sat down on a bench and said to myself, “Scott, leaders solve problems. This is a problem. Figure it out.”

Bill Hybels has observed, “Leaders eat problems for lunch.” I had a full course meal that day in Singapore.
I managed to solve the passport problem, but that was hardly the biggest obstacle, or leadership moment, I would face.

Check back tomorrow to see what happened next during this leadership school…

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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