No matter how strong you are as a leader, there is always more to learn. Find someone whose leadership skills you admire and learn from them. Study those who have succeeded as well as those who have failed. Whether it is your neighbor, your boss, or a great leader from history, become a student of their attitude, communication style, etc. Take note of their strengths – as well as their weaknesses – and put the lessons you learn into practice. It is important to recognize that those with more experience or more victories under their belt may have something to teach you
Find a role model.
Find people who hold the position you would like to hold and have the leadership qualities you want to have. Study them and emulate them. Also, find people who you do not think are good leaders and learn from their mistakes. Role models can save you lots of time and trouble by sharing their life lessons with you. Learn from the mistakes and discoveries of others how to be better and take their advice on how to keep improving yourself.
During “Beast Barracks” (the two month period when new cadets receive basic training at West Point) each squad had two different Squad Leaders, a month with each. I have never forgotten the two men who led my squad. The first was an over-bearing, sadistic person who screamed and yelled at us, unmerciful physical exercises, apparently with the goal of driving the weak to quit the Academy. I despised that man.
The second was the exact opposite: Colonel Hiram G. Fuller. Stern, demanding, allowed no second-rate performances in anything. Calm, commanding, forceful personality. Required and got the best out of all of us. His very presence was projected around him. He placed great emphasis on the West Point Honor Code and carefully instructed us on the Honor System and the stern unforgiving nature of its application to all aspects of daily life, athletics, academics and its extension throughout our lives as Commissioned Officers. He also explained to us the demands, duties, and honor of living up to the West Point motto: “Duty, Honor, Country” as a Cadet and as a Regular Army Officer.
Choose sharp bosses who are advancing themselves.
If you want to learn fast, “get ahead”, and advance up the ladder – it helps to work for good leaders.
As a young Army officer, I found myself in a turbulent and fast-moving world, the likes of which I had never experienced before. I immediately faced an on-the-job steep learning curve. The upside was that I most always worked for good bosses who themselves were on the way up. I encountered Colonels and Generals – some of whom later led the Army as Senior Generals. Most of these men ended up sitting on Promotion Boards or Competitive School Selection Boards in later years.
Let history repeat itself.
Study the great leaders.
Before Vietnam, I’d read a lot of Military History, and was especially impressed with the leadership of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of the German Army and General George S. Patton, Jr.