Undoubtedly we learn a lot from experience and indeed MD2MD is built on the idea of learning from ‘University of Life’ experience. The question is whether we can learn more quickly and be more successful more quickly if we learn from the experience of others – repeating their successes and avoiding their mistakes.
A few business leaders have the good fortune to have studied for an MBA or attended a Senior Management Development Programme at a Business School.
Many others have had very little development to enable them to perform at their best as a leader. Indeed it’s an amazing to find that many business leaders have less training to their job than their most junior employee has to do theirs!
Most junior staff, especially those dealing with customers or equipment, are given some training before they start work. They are not simply expected to sink or swim. By contrast, many Managing Directors evolve into their role with little or no training in how to lead a business and in how to make the best decisions and get the best out of their staff. And consequently many feel quite exposed, although they can’t admit it openly because everyone expects the Managing Director to know all the answers. That idea that the buck stops with the boss, and the boss is alone in making decisions underlies the phrases ‘It’s lonely at the top’ or from the military world ‘The loneliness of command’.
And it’s even more amazing to find that this isn’t just true for the street wise entrepeneur who left school at 16. It’s often also true in the professions where the senior or managing partner has gained their position following years of study a lawyer or accountant (or scientist, doctor or educationalist) but has had little or no guidance on how to lead and how to get the best out of their many well qualified and expensive specialist staff.
It’s not that we are deliberately cavalier. It’s just that many of us grow into the job of managing the livelihoods, careers, and indirectly mortgages, of tens or hundreds of people step by step. Rarely are we, business leaders, selected through a detailed evaluation and interview process that reveals that we are the best candidate match for the job.
And to be fair, we learn a lot on the way. It’s the University of Life. But that doesn’t mean we can’t speed up and tackle our challenges more effectively by learning from the experience of fellow business leaders. And them learning from us. That’s the essence of MD2MD.