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Here is an excerpt from Lee’s latest book, Leadership Matters. It contains 31 daily insights to inspire extraordinary results.

day 19: Knowledge

I heard this story about a member of America’s “greatest generation” that illustrates the matter of knowledge.

A friend’s grandfather came to America from Eastern Europe. After being processed at Ellis Island, he went into a cafeteria in Lower Manhattan. He sat down at an empty table and waited for someone to take his order. Of course nobody did. Finally, a woman with a tray full of food sat down opposite him and informed him how a cafeteria worked.

“Start out at that end,” she said. “Just go along the line and pick out what you want. At the other end, they’ll tell you how much you have to pay.”

“I soon learned that’s how everything works in America,” the grandfather told my friend. “Life’s a cafeteria. You can get anything you want as long as you are willing to pay the price of learning. You can even get success, but you’ll never get it if you wait for someone to bring it to you. You have to get up and get it yourself.”

Inspiring leadership is not just about investing in others. Inspiring leadership is also about investing in ourselves. Today more than ever, there is a cafeteria of learning available to us … and it’s filled with the food of knowledge. Your life is a virtual cafeteria of learning where you can build your leadership competence. You can find best practices everywhere. Watch the people around you. You can find nuggets of insight from a father-in-law, a clergyman, a speaker at a professional association meeting, a fellow leader, a mentor, a child, a Boy Scout’s troop leader or a particularly helpful salesperson at a local department store. Observe, read, ask, listen and learn.

There are also lessons to be learned in everything your team does. Look for opportunities in post-project reviews, customer meetings, conflicts with other departments, changes in priorities, miscommunications and mistakes. Seize all these experiences to feed yourself and your team. This hones our competence … and competence builds confidence. Confidence is critical – inspiring leaders need it and their teams want to see it.

Your mind is a muscle. Keep learning and it strengthens. Stop learning and it atrophies. Inspiring leaders are hungry to consume knowledge and are just as eager to share it. Take a moment to invest in yourself and exercise your brain!

Action Questions:

1. What is one source of knowledge I can do a better job of tapping into – a colleague, listening to CDs, a mentor?

2. Where can I look for good examples of inspiring leadership outside of my work setting?

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
– John F. Kennedy

Copyright © 2012 by Lee J. Colan and The L Group, Inc.