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Leadership and Learning Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks

Leadership and Learning Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks

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Start a management degree at American Public University.

By Dr. Detlef Klann
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University

Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

I have read many articles and books on leadership and how to reinvent oneself. Many of us have also relied on the sentence ‘what I want to do when I grow up’ to determine what type of career to pursue.

Most folks I know want meaningful work and the opportunity to make a contribution. I often use the saying, “You can lead your boss to an idea, but you can’t make ‘em think.”

I also try to lead folks to an idea and ask to collaborate with them. This way, I get them onboard with an idea. It helps if they think it’s their idea.

Good Business Starts with an Optimal Customer Experience and Good Leaders

Doing business is simple. Make a customer experience seamless and effortless, so they don’t think about how much they are paying for a service. Ideally, customers should use that service repeatedly and enjoy it so much that they recommend it to everyone they know.

It’s really not that complicated. Go to work for a company whose leaders encourage providing customers with the best possible service and that should produce a sufficient profit. Enable that optimal customer experience and promote it.

If you don’t work for this type of organization, then I recommend you find a new employer. Once you’re working for that employer, do all you can to ensure you retain your position for as long as you can.

Leadership Relies on Constant Learning

The books I’ve read have taught me to never stop learning. Just because I’ve reached a milestone like graduating or completing a degree, that was not the end of my journey. I had merely met the entrance criteria to start that journey.

Now I am equipped with more tools than I once possessed, enabling my journey to be more effective.

The funny part is that after every degree or graduation, we traditionally celebrate. That’s ok, but it should mark a beginning rather than an end.

Another lesson I’ve learned is not to put all your eggs in one basket. Gone are the days of landing a job right out of high school, working for the same company for 30 to 40 years and retiring with an adequate pension. Also gone are the days when we went to college for a prescribed number of years, graduated, went to work for a company for a long time and retired.

Now, we work hard to acquire skill sets and credentials employers need, regardless of the educational method we used to get them. That could be a technical school, military service, a college or university, online education sites like Lynda or Udemy, or the “school of hard knocks” (i.e., experience gained from life’s activities).

Diversifying My Skills to Fit Different Jobs

My wife and I have been discussing what will happen when I decide to reduce the number of jobs I have. None of these jobs is full-time employment, but I give them all the same due diligence as if they were.

I am blessed in the fact that I have several sources of income, which come from hard work. If one of those sources were to dry up or slow down, I could shift to one of the others and increase my workload to increase my income. I’m considering adding one or more jobs to earn money while I sleep, so it produces income while I’m at rest.

We Need Leaders, Not Leadership, to Create Good Companies

We hear terms like leadership being bantered about a lot. However, it’s not leadership we need; it’s good leaders. We need quality people to lead, to follow and to help a company succeed.

If something at your organization isn’t working, then change that to something that does work. People are afraid to fail, but failure presents us with a learning opportunity so we can avoid failing again.

If all your eggs are in one basket and that basket fails, you end up paddleless on the proverbial creek. But if you have multiple baskets, you can use another basket to replace the one that failed.

I am eyeballing some form of quasi-retirement in the next several years. I don’t really see myself doing less work. Instead, I see myself morphing into something else and adding another income stream.

My conversations with my wife do not revolve around what will happen when I reduce the number of my jobs. Instead, we’re discussing what I will do when I retire from one successful journey and start another journey.

I don’t plan to slow down; I plan to change lanes and pick up speed. I may even learn something more from the “school of hard knocks,” which could apply to a number of curriculums.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Detlef “CK” Klann is an adjunct faculty member in the School of Business at American Public University. His academic credentials include an associate degree in avionics technology from the Community College of the Air Force, an associate degree in electronics from Victor Valley College and a bachelor’s degree in electronics management from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Other degrees include a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a doctoral degree in business administration from North Central University. Dr. Klann has held various leadership positions at Sprint, AT&T, the United States Air Force Reserve and the U.S. Air Force.

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