Leadership Lessons Can Be Learned in Unusual Places

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Leadership Lessons Can Be Learned in Unusual Places

Life lessons can be pretty straightforward. For example, you go jogging in the dead of winter and end up flying through the air on black ice. Most likely by the time you land, you’ve learned to look for ice before setting off for a February morning run.

The lessons I want to talk about are a little more elusive. They come when you are doing a completely unrelated task. For example, when I was a chef I learned a ton of leadership lessons, even from things like baking batch after batch of hard muffins. And when I learned to surf this winter, I was surprised to realize I learned leadership lessons through that process as well.

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These types of hidden lessons are so fun to discover. I wanted to hear from others about the most unusual place they learned leadership lessons, so I turned to my LinkedIn community and simply asked, “Where is the most unusual place you’ve learned a leadership lesson?” The responses I received to my question were both inspiring and entertaining. While there were some obvious micro themes like learning leadership through parents and sports, there were definitely some surprises. For example, did you know you could learn about leadership in a public restroom? It turns out you can.

The biggest theme I noticed was that leadership lessons often come when we put ourselves in unfamiliar situations, or try something new. That has certainly been my experience as well. Moving to Kenya after graduating college to turn around a hotel while facing down lions and tsunamis could be considered an unfamiliar situation and a half. But that experience changed my worldview and taught me first hand the value of authentic leadership. Let’s see where others learned their leadership lessons.

Where is The Most Unusual Place You’ve Learned a Leadership Lesson?

1. Leadership Lessons Come From Dogs

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2. Leadership Lessons Come From Our Parents and Our Children

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Robert’s comment made me laugh out loud. I can certainly relate!

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We learn so many lessons from our parents/guardians. I can still hear my mother say, “They can take everything away from you, but they can’t take away your education.”


3. Leadership Lessons Come From the Arts

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The idea of learning about diversity through dancing really intrigued me, so I asked Pat to elaborate. She replied with a very powerful analogy that will make me look at dance performances differently in the future.

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I knew this was a good one so I asked how he learned the lesson of balance from singing with his choir. I wasn’t disappointed.

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4. Leadership Lessons Come from Sports

As you’ll gather from Andrew’s comment below, he learned leadership lessons from giving a halftime talk in the grand finale where the team was the favorite, but was losing. Can you think of what you would say at such a crucial moment?

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In essence, Andrew created the space so the team could hear his message and then gave them a message that resonated on a physical, mental and emotional level. That is a very powerful skill to have as a leader.

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I believe Cindy learned even more about leadership than she states here. She must have also learned to slowly move toward the bigger goal of completing the triathlon on her own, an important (and often difficult) lesson for leaders.

5. Leadership Lessons Come From Public Restrooms

I know this is the lesson you’ve been waiting for. While I agree it sounds hysterical, it’s a actually a great lesson. If you pay attention, there is so much learning from even daily, mundane activities.

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6. Leadership Lessons Come From The Dorms

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7. Leadership Lessons Come From Travel

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I was glad that Victoria brought travel up. I completely agree that there is so much to learn while traveling to new places. I lived and worked in Kenya for 12 years and learned many of my foundational leadership lessons from my time there. The tsunamis and lions were a great help in that regard!

So what about you? What can you add to the mix? I would love to hear about the unusual places you’ve learned leadership lessons. Please share your stories in the comment section below. You can also send me an email, or find me on Twitter. Looking forward to it!

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