At one point in time or another we have all wanted to be part of the “in crowd”. However we usually don’t want to be a “face in the crowd”. We know that “two is company, but three is a crowd”. We usually don’t like to be crowded in or crowded out. When we do something good it may be referred to as a “crowd pleaser”. The crowd is part of our lexicon, and it normally refers to the everyman or average person.
No one really wants to be average. We all want to some extent to be different. This is a way in which we are all alike to some extent. I try to encourage everyone to read. This act in itself will separate you from the average crowd. Not enough people read anymore. The more you read the more you will separate yourself from the crowd. I think this is a good thing. Our businesses and our society seem to be predicated on the addressing of the crowd, not the individual. There are several books on group and mob dynamics. I encourage everyone to find one and to read it.
There are some very interesting aspects on the way crowds are managed (ever here of the phrase “crowd control”) and the way crowds behave. The crowd, on average is easier to get money from and to manage because they like, and in some instances want to believe what they are told. If you want to be a leader you have to understand this and step away from the average crowd.
Leaders start being leaders by first not thinking as they are told. As trite as it sounds, they think for themselves. The information that we get about Pay Day Loans, Vitamins, Exercise Devices and all sorts of Weight Loss Diets is designed for the average group. This is information for people who want to believe that it is easy to get money, get healthy, and get in shape or to lose weight. It isn’t. Unfortunately for them it usually takes work, dedication and effort. People who do not continue to read and who do not continue to educate themselves will believe all sorts of outlandish claims and will subsequently be separated from their money in return for the easy promise of these items. They will be managed and as they grow they will become managers, not leaders.
This “think for themselves” standard applies to leaders in business as well. They learn to think for themselves. They understand where the information they are receiving comes from and why it is formatted and presented in the manner it is. They recognize who is providing them the information and what their goal is in providing it. It doesn’t matter if it is an individual contributor presenting their monthly report or the Chief Executive Officer presenting the corporate quarterly report, they both have a message that they want to convey and an objective they want to achieve aside from just presenting the information. That message doesn’t invalidate the information being received; it just adds another facet to it that must be considered.
Leaders form their own opinions. They don’t get them from the same place that the crowd does. They don’t get them from thirteen second sound bites on television. They don’t get them from one source. They don’t get them from news papers, magazines or the internet. They create their own. Leaders look at both sides and sometimes multiple sides of a problem. They strive to understand the supply side as well as the demand side of the issue. They understand what they want to do, but also try to understand what others want to do as well so that when both of their “wants”, sometimes competing and sometimes complimentary interact, they are ready.
Today the average person in business has been educated to one relatively higher level or another. This education is usually the product of our various educational institutions and systems. These institutions have a prescribed path and set of requirements that were probably developed many, many years ago. It is a tried and true formula that for the most part we are all the product of. It worked well when the process was put in place and it continues to work, right? I am sure that we are all comfortable knowing that the world, and more specifically business has not changed substantially since our educational curriculums were developed.
In case you were wondering, that was just a little sarcasm. Possibly just slightly more than a little.
If institutional education was the only key to success, why is it that new graduates, fresh out of college with their newly minted college degrees are not immediately made executives and put in positions of authority in business? The answer is pretty simple. It is because they have a lot to learn.
The average college degree indicates that its holder is capable of applying themselves toward a long term goal, working multiple years toward it, and actually achieving it. More importantly it indicates that the person has demonstrated the capability to learn. The average college graduate then enters the business world and seems to stop learning. They have been conditioned to expect that they already have learned all the information they will need, or that the information they need to learn to be clearly and cleanly presented to them. This has rarely been my experience in business. Leaders understand that graduating from college is the educational equivalent to an admission ticket to the major league business game, and that the real learning about business is just about to begin.
The average employee looks to receive assignments and fulfill them. They look to be told what to do, and what needs to be done and what is expected of them. Their belief is that by doing what is expected and what is asked of them they will advance. This is what was required of them in their educational institutional experience, and that seemed to work out pretty well there. That may be the eventual case for managers, but they will not ever lead in business by taking that approach. Leaders understand that they can do more. Anyone can do what is asked of them. Leaders do not wait to be asked to take on an assignment or solve a problem.
Leaders understand that in business you learn by doing. They do more than they are asked to do. They do things that they have never done before. They risk being wrong in what they do. They build on what they have learned before and apply it to the new activities that they must now do. Leaders understand that they must now educate themselves if they are to continue learning, growing and succeeding, and that they do not educate themselves by following a manager.
Learning is a habit that is acquired and honed in school prior to entering business. It also seems to be a habit that many in business seem to forget once they are working. They have a tendency to rely on what they have learned instead of learning what may now be new. Two of the best ways that I have found to stay in the learning habit is to (One) try and add to the breadth of activities that you enjoy. Take up new sports. Learn to play a musical instrument. Go to new or different social events. The new or unfamiliar will force you out of your safe zone and isn’t that what learning is about. By keeping the learning habit alive, even in unrelated topics or fields, you will keep yourself open to learning in business.
The second method for continued learning is to read. Read a lot. Read for enjoyment. Read for professional interest. Just read.
Out of curiosity I did an internet search on the phrase “someone who likes to read”. I thought the results were pretty interesting. The definition of someone who likes to read is a “bibliophile”. Someone who loves books. That one is okay. It also returned “intellectual”. That’s also a good one, but it seems to me to be acquiring a bit of a negative connotation in today’s changing vernacular. “Bookworm” also came up. Definitely a negative connotation. Finally it returned “Dork” and “Nerd”.
I couldn’t make this up. Something that is acquiring that sort of negative connotation has to be good for you.