Learn. Observe. Act.

Sunset in Hong Kong (credit: Kevin Wise)

Recently, I have begun a small project to develop and share microcontent with my team about ideas in the space of leadership. More than anything else in development plan discussions to prep for this year, people mentioned that they wanted to grow in the area of leadership development.

Given that the topic of leadership is so broad and covers many areas, my goal was to start at the beginning; if I had to teach my younger self 20 years ago when I began my own leadership journey, what would I have wanted to know.

So question is always “Once I’ve decided to grow in my leadership, then what?” To which, I have always tried to recommend three areas:


  • Whether you search “leadership development” into Google or you are lucky enough to have someone in your life pointing you in the right direction, it is hard not to find some information on the topic of growing as a leader. In fact, as we have mentioned on this blog before, the harder job is likely separating the signal from the noise as there are more books, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, webinars etc on the topic than one person can possibly absorb. The point is to start. Learn how people define leadership. Read about what people feel is good vs bad leadership. Follow people you respect in business or other areas on social media who and see who they talk about as good leaders and follow them.


  • Leadership “happens” every day, all around you. In meetings. On TV. Slow down and observe leaders in action. Especially focus on leaders who are facing a crisis. There is likely no better indicator of a leader’s values and motives than when they are under pressure. Is there approach calm and solutions oriented or panicked and finger pointing? Do they organize and stay attentive in meetings or is their attention and mind somewhere else? Do they stop to say hi and are they genuinely interested in the team’s well being or do you never hear from them other than when something goes wrong?


  • The first two items are easy enough to engage in, but the key is to put those new learnings into action. This is the stumbling block…concern about perception or fear of failure can begin to creep in. So start small. Don’t wait for anyone to pick you……find a small annoyance or issue and grab a few colleagues and have a go at it. Leading, creating, and designing is about being brave. Leading is about being willing to embrace uncertainty, but still believe there is a solution to be found. But none of that means anything if we are not willing to act.

By acting we learn more, by learning more we see new traits and practices to observe, and learning new methods gives us a chance to ask again. Learn-Observe-Act is the engine of growing as a leader. You have the key to start it; put it in the ignition and get going.

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