Five Leadership Lessons You can Learn from Your Worst Professors

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When I first arrived at university I was thrilled to think that I would be instructed by some of the brightest minds in the country. It was a major research university with an excellent reputation.

However, during the time I received my undergraduate degree I came to learn that sometimes the brightest minds do not translate into being the best instructors. Sure, my professors had national reputations for their field, unfortunately several of them found their obligations in the classroom a distraction to their larger research interests.

When I look back on those days I realize that these professors taught me (the hard way) five valuable leadership lessons that serve me well in my career today.

Lesson 1 – Lack of Interest is Contagious. If you’re not interested in something then those following you have no chance to be.

Lesson 2 – It’s Not about Your Accomplishments. People don’t want to hear a play-by-play of your successes. The healthiest leaders get beyond “me and my accomplishments” to “we and our accomplishments”.

Lesson 3 – Excellence has an expiry date. It doesn’t matter if you were at the top of your profession 10 or 20 years ago. It’s critical that you stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your industry. You can’t get today’s employees to buy into a vision that is stuck in the past.

Lesson 4 – Keep communication updates short. The average person has an attention span of 10 to 18 minutes. When you carry on a monologue beyond this point many people will simply tune you out. It’s much easier to digest and retain smaller chunks of information.

Lesson 5 – Be wary if those around you are struggling to succeed. When employees are finding it hard to measure up it’s nice to pretend that you are demanding and have set the bar very high. However, in many of these instances you are setting the stage for failure with your communication bar being too low.

Dr. Linda Pardy
Dr. Linda Pardy
As an Associate Professor, Communications, and a Student Affairs educator I uniquely work in both these worlds. With over 20 years of Student Affairs experience I strategically blend student development theory into all my teaching and learning, and consulting work. A close colleague once nicknamed me Practical Scholar, but in reality it is a good way to describe my work. My integrated approach to student success is practical yet recognized for improving cross-disciplinary work, enhancing learning conditions, and equipping students with workplace ready skills. I publish and present my research both nationally and internationally. I'm currently involved in several projects related to preparing 21st century learners for the workplace. I hope this blog is a way to share this work.
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