No one learns to lead from lectures

You can’t learn to lead from lectures. Online learning is the wave of the future. I’m a strong advocate for using the extraordinary resources of the Internet to pass along knowledge. I’ve taken The Great Courses for so many years that the first courses I took were on cassette tapes, then CD for many years, and now I take The Great Courses Plus online. I watched Lecture 11 of the 42-Lecture Course on The French Revolution before I got up this morning and Lecture 12 as I walked on my treadmill for 30 minutes.

Online learning is an easy, efficient way to pass along knowledge, concepts, and principles. But online learning will never replace, can never replace, an active participation lab learning environment. The only way to develop the qualities and skills required to be a capable leader is through active participation. The most important leadership skill is communication skills and the most important quality of a leader is courage.

Can you imagine trying to learn how to fly an airplane online? Trying to learn how to swim online? Trying to learn how to ride a bicycle online? You could learn the principles of aeronautics, Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy and the aerodynamics of balance and speed. But, the only way you could ever learn to actually fly an airplane is to get in the cockpit with a qualified instructor, a qualified trainer and take the controls. Being thrown in the deep end of the pool is not the best way to learn how to swim. You start with a qualified coach, initially holding you up in the pool while you kick, wearing inflatable arm bands. The only way to learn how to ride a bicycle is getting on it, perhaps with training wheels and the help of an encouraging coach. You begin to peddle as they hold the back of the seat.

The same is true of driving a car. Many parents have learned that it’s best for them to assign teaching their teenager how to drive to a professional driving instructor. I’m the author of eleven books, over half of those books are on leadership, every week I write the 500 word Turbocharger – lessons in leadership post and have since May of 1992. For the first twelve years, my posts were a Daily Journal of Commerce newspaper column. Our readers tell us they find encouragement, inspiration and useful information in our books and columns.

But I never kid myself about a reader gaining the skills and qualities essential to leadership from just reading. With persistence, objective reflection and analysis a tenacious person can learn to lead. Leadership ability comes from courageous trial and error, successes and failures in the LAB of life. This trial and error will never be as easy, fast, and certainly not as cost-effective as off your seat on your feet participation in a controlled LAB learning environment. Stretch your comfort zone as you practice developing the required communication skills and qualities of leadership.