Lessons I Have Learned ...

... and what others have taught me.

June 25, 2014
One of the best things about writing this blog is that it has forced me to reflect on multiple aspects of my professional and personal life. It’s also forced me write down my ideas in a coherent manner and observe how others respond to those ideas. In the last few days, I have given a great deal of thought to some of the key lessons I have learned as a leader. Below are the 25 most important lessons that I have learned since assuming an executive function, even before I had the title to go along with it.

Patience is a virtue. Confidence and humility go hand in hand. These are sacred.

1. Don’t burn your bridges, even when the relationship is not worth it. Just withdraw and honor the positive things that came out of your alliance and what you learned, including the hard lessons.

2. Align yourself with your intellectual equals or superiors. Academic pedigree does not always translate into intelligence. I have met many superbly intelligent people with no formal education. I have also found that fearful and insecure people consistently choose to compete against and align themselves with those weaker than them.

3. Know when to shut up and listen. You learn so much by observing and listening.

4. Be the bigger person. You will sleep better at night for it.

5. Train yourself to see things from others’ perspective, even when you disagree and when it goes against your principles. There is so much to learn about yourself and others in so doing.

6. Know yourself and what you stand for. Taking a principled stand earns you the respect and credibility of smart people. Know whose respect and friendship really matter to you.

7. Age does not always carry wisdom with it. Coming from a culture where age earns reverence, this has not been an easy lesson for me. The empiricist in me found many fallacies in this deeply-ingrained, culturally-embedded bias I held.

8. Be open to constructive feedback. Seek it, reflect on it, use it or learn from it.

9. Even your worst enemy’s criticism holds a kernel of truth. Don’t dismiss your enemies categorically; listen to them and decide what to take and what to reject.

10. Learn, adapt, evolve. Reinvent yourself periodically. I don’t know any other place that allows individuals to start anew at any age as well as the United States does.

11. Be careful of people who have no principles and who blow with the wind. Their alliance with you is only temporary and their commitment can’t always be relied upon.

12. Free yourself of the box. Be creative. Take calculated risks. And don’t be afraid of failure; embrace it.

13. At the end of the day, reflect on your actions and behaviors. Make sure that you treat others fairly, with respect and compassion, and how you would like to be treated.

14. Celebrate what you do well and operate from a place of strength. I used to focus disproportionately on the things that I do not do well and was obsessed about self-improvement. Now, I care deeply about self-improvement but I build on my strengths and use them as my launching pad.

15. Observe what others do well and praise them, especially when they work with or for you.

16. Beware of the patronizing praise. If your ego needs it, Houston you have a problem!

17. Be strategic about your career, especially if you are a woman. Think through the implications of your actions ahead of time and seek advice from a range of wise people. Know how dominant groups behave and what makes them successful.

18. Read, read, read. For all the obvious reasons.

19. Know your competitive advantage and use it.

20. Have a cadre of advisors– people who can give you honest advice, keep you from doing stupid things, and whose guidance come from a place of genuine care. Let them know to challenge you. Pick people who will not just tell you what you want to hear.

21. Have multiple sources of renewal. I used to work non-stop. I still work a lot but I have built in rejuvenation breaks. I have family time, mama time with other moms, and girls evenings and weekends with my fun girlfriends. As I get older, I also find myself wanting more alone time.

22. Live your values. Don’t just espouse them. Make them the center of how you spend your time and energy.

23. Nurture, cultivate, mentor, support, and advance others, especially when they work for you.

24. Don’t hold on to grudges, but hold on to your self-respect. People treat you how you allow them to treat you. Observe and protect yourself. While it’s tempting to become vindictive or take on the role of oppressor, ultimately those behaviors don’t advance your goals and channel your energy to things that add no value to your life.

25. Take pride in others taking credit for your work and claiming your achievements as their own. They must be darn good! Decide whether it’s worth your energy to address these types of situations or whether you’re better off focusing on expanding your portfolio of achievements.


This post originally appeared on Community College Life and is cross-posted here by permission of the author. Check out other posts here. You can also find the author, Yves Salomon-Fernandez, on Twitter at @YvesSFernandez



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