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Building Community Through Better Relationships

3 Reasons Why General Education Matters to Leaders

The old saying goes, “A leader without followers is just someone taking a walk.” This wisdom applies to business, technology, the military, but is presented as literature. Literature is part of General Education which represents coursework that emphasizes baseline skills. Such skills establish a foundation for educated individuals. While technical skills are essential to perform a specific job, combining that learning with General Education develops the capacity for different types of people to interact. Across departments, cultural backgrounds, geographies, or socio-economic status, the expectation that educated individuals have a similar set of skills and experiences starts with reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic and goes to recognizing life lessons from literary classics, thought leaders, and assorted cultural perspectives. Leading depends on this understanding.

1. You Lead the Other Guy
Lead, follow or get out of the way ~Thomas Paine, American revolutionary. For people to follow effectively, they must know where they are supposed to go and the leader must communicate that to them. A common understanding, a common language, a common set of beliefs are necessary to proceed in an orderly fashion. Just because you are loud, have a position, or have more experience does not mean that you are clear. Knowing how to read to understand, to write to be understood, and to connect with other people as they see the world helps all groups communicate and perform better. General Education develops this capacity.

2. Innovation is Born of Diverse Ideas
A leader’s expertise may be technological, but their peers and superiors still have to consider finance, sales, and human resources. How can you follow directions or agree on the best plans across disciplines, without understanding all perspectives? How can you truly innovate with only your own, original ideas? Innovation is clearly a collaborative exercise. Technical knowledge is based on historic learning. You learn how to do a particular task or execute a process, then you repeat it. However, our dynamic world means the marketplace constantly changes. No matter how much any individual professional dominates her technical field, to repeatedly benefit from great innovations she needs external inputs. For leaders who are responsible for creating strategies, new products, or future forecasts, General Education provides diverse thinking skills to optimally use all inputs.

3. Get Out Your Lane, Now Pass
Leadership does not stop inside the organization. Leadership is a skill and must be continually developed. Professionals who safely stay in their lanes will eventually run into traffic and stop progressing. But, professionals who intentionally get outside their lane gain new perspectives and opportunities to progress. Progressive leaders maximize their skills by contributing to ad hoc projects, corporate boards, industry committees and non-profit boards. In turn, highly productive boards perform at their best when they compile a diverse set of high-performing professionals. General Education learning skills that include: reading across intellectual disciplines, creating content to demonstrate expertise among decision makers, and enlarging one’s cultural lens to better understand a growing legion of followers, enable leaders to fulfill their greatest potential. In short, they lead better because they can authoritatively connect to more followers!

Organizations and their leaders have to be culturally aligned to be successful. A particular discipline may dominate an organization and dictate its objectives. But, the marketplace will not be that rigid. Charting new paths and solving new problems are essential to effective leadership. General Education teaches applying diverse skills to solve new problems. If you are not solving problems, then you are just taking orders and are easily replaceable! Without General Education, you become “just someone taking a walk”.

By Glenn Hunter
(inspired by MDP)

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August 13, 2013 - Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Very nice!

    I do see a positive side to General Education. In a person like myself, that is further down the road. I feel that I should concentrate on my field and then build around it, that’s all. All of us take General Education classes for 12 years while attending High School, just to come out and continue more General Education. With some teachers pressing that it is just as important as classes that will teach you how to apply yourself in your particular job. Now this could be agreed with on a certain level in some cases, but not all. The only thing that I may disagree with is, “How can you truly innovate with only your own, original ideas?”

    Original ideas in the work environment if thought through are sometimes the best ideas that are put out. Most of the people coming up with these “Original” ideas are the people actually taking the orders. So they are aware of what is going to help speed up production, or make it a better work environment for them. On the other hand, this is when the Financial and Human Resources aspects come into play as well. That’s why companies hire these people though. They should be able to work around your idea if presented to them and mold it into something that will work. As that is what they’re supposed to do.

    Overall this was right on point in my opinion. Although it was only leaning to one side of the argument Some things will probably just come to me with age I assume, being that I am 24 and have a long time coming. That will be something that I would possibly argue with differently at age 34 and then again at 44. All in all, great article.

    Thanks Mr. Hunter!

    Comment by Mark Parker | August 13, 2013 | Reply


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