Potential difference requires a leader to be ahead in order to keep the team motivated. This requires knowledge acquisition and skill development. In this light, knowledge is defined as a knowing that gives an edge, which results in an ability to influence. Charlie Jones said: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” It is generally believed that every leader is a reader and every reader is a potential leader. CNN’s ‘Reading for Leading’ program lends credence to this hypothesis. A leader should know something about everything and everything about something within his sphere of leadership. Again, this doesn’t mean the leader is the know it all; instead, it means the leader has basic amount of knowing in a wide range of subjects, and a deep amount of knowing in one or a few subjects. This makes for a leader who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way (paraphrased from John C. Maxwell’s quote). If you don’t have it, you can’t give it!
Knowledge is primarily acquired through reading. A leader must study to remain approved because there is a natural degradation that comes with lack of learning. A computer engineer who received a degree in 1980 and has not continually increased in knowledge will be outdated in today’s dynamic and fast-paced world of computing. There is therefore no end to personal development. It is imperative to remain a student of life and a student for life: duly registered in the University of Life. Henry Ford said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” It is a never ending cycle of knowledge. The more you know, the more you discover you don’t know, and the more you want to know. If one must live without knowledge, then the next logical step will be to purchase a firearm because it will soon become necessary to rob a bank; and even for that, knowledge is needed!
Let’s take a look at one of America’s greatest leaders – Thomas Jefferson. He was the 3rd president of the United States and the principal author of the US Declaration of Independence. History records that he depended on books for his education all through his life. During his presidency, the Library of Congress, which is currently the second largest library in the world, was established. It is worthy of note that Jefferson had the largest private library in North America at the time. After the Library of Congress was burnt in the War of 1812, he sold his personal library collection to the United States Government. His collection was used to re-establish the Library of Congress. At this time, Jefferson had seemingly accomplished it all; nonetheless, he began to rebuild his personal library at the age of 71.
The leader’s first priority is the building of potential while a later priority is to build potential in others through mentoring. A leader in self, increases exponentially by teaching others in leadership. The renowned educationist, Edgar Dale, developed the Cone of Experience in 1946 where he related different learning techniques to memory retentiveness. Although he never added specific numbers to his cone, it was postulated from the cone thereafter that we remember 10% of what we read and over 90% of what we teach others. This implies that we can literally receive 90% by giving 10%; truly it is blessed to give.
Elephants spend about 80% of their day feeding; consuming several hundreds of pounds of vegetation daily, and excreting around half of what is eaten. The lesson here is that a significant portion of time must be spend in capacity building, but capacity must not be kept, it must be discharged, else it becomes toxic to the bearer. Lack of use is as bad, maybe even worse than misuse. Jim Rohn summarized it as thus:
“Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action.”
The Authors: Akinleye Sowunmi, Chukwuka Madumelu and Oghare Ogidiama are friends and business partners who believe they are going to change the world someday.