Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools learn in no other. – Benjamin Franklin
In almost every leadership position we hold there is a honeymoon period that allows us to get settled in and learn the lay of the land. Very soon reality sets in and we realize there are challenges that are rising to the surface. Our temptation is to turn on our mental autopilot and try to solve it the way we’ve solved it in the past. But then it doesn’t work.
I’ve discovered that no matter how many years of experience I get under my leadership belt, I run into issues I’ve never faced before. Every leadership context is different. An experienced pilot when facing turbulence can’t allow autopilot to take over. Instead, the pilot flies through it.
In the same way, we can’t afford to go on autopilot thinking that “we’ve seen this before know what to do.” When I find that attitude creeping in, I know it’s time to check myself. Maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture or don’t know all the facts.
The best leaders admit when they don’t know it all. They grow with the trials, deepen their experience and sharpen their skill.
Leadership expert Jim Collins, in his famous work on how good companies became great companies, says Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark is one of the greatest CEOs of the twentieth century. Collins says, “Smith, a man who never entirely erased his own self-doubts, later summed up his tenure by saying simply, ‘I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.’” (http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/the-misguided-mixup.html)
Our experience informs the present to help us figure out what to do. It begins with the attitude of humility. Celebrity leaders rise only as high as the moment they think they know it all then they fall.
Leaders who last rise to the challenge and grow through the new experience.
Rick Pitino, championship basketball coach, writes, “The longer I live and the more I experience, the more I believe that humility is the quality essential to sustained success, and a lack of it is the major stumbling block for those who find success for a time, then lose it.” (The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life)
Could it be time to turn off autopilot and fly the plane?
What challenges are you facing that require a humble attitude and the willingness to learn something new?