Leadership Skills: You Can’t Become a Leader by Attending Courses on Leadership

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

Every effective leader I’ve come across has honed their leadership skills not through formal education but through practicing and “being” a leader. Reflecting upon those with impressive leadership skills that I personally know, and considering the noteworthy leaders in history and business, several shared characteristics stand out:

  1. They were intensely focused on realizing a lofty aim, demonstrating the paramount importance of goal-oriented leadership skills.
  2. Their understanding of leadership was predominantly gleaned not from theoretical models proposed by leadership “gurus”, but from real-life figures of admiration. This highlights the value of experiential leadership skills.
  3. They actively sought guidance from trusted mentors, illustrating the role of mentorship and self-reflection in refining leadership skills, particularly when facing challenging situations on their path to their ambitious goal.
  4. They developed excellent relationship-building, networking, and communication skills — crucial leadership skills that enabled them to draw in and retain the resources and talent necessary to fulfill their ambitious goal.

I call the above the 4Ms:

    • Motivators

    • Models

    • Mentors

    • Mastery

I know many people who are leadership development professionals. I have the utmost respect for them. Yet every one of them I know will attest to the fact that despite billions of dollars spent annually on leadership development, effective leaders are still in very short supply. And the same leadership development professionals will tell you that the demand for inspiring, transformational leaders in their organizations is huge. I believe that people in organizations are disengaged for this reason alone.

Why is this? My own take on this is that leadership is a decision, not a position. By that I mean, if you really want to be a leader you need to make a decision to go after an ambitious goal. Too many people in leadership positions, especially senior ones, avoid this because their career and pay-check is guaranteed to them regardless of what they achieve. If a CEO decides to play it safe, then that decision has a trickle down effect in their organization where everyone in a leadership position plays it safe. I’m not advocating reckless goal setting, but I am suggesting setting the bar high to begin with.

You start your journey to becoming a great leader by getting motivated to achieve an AMBITIOUS goal, not by attending more leadership development courses. Leadership skill building and courses are important only after you make the decision to lead by setting an AMBITIOUS goal. If you are having trouble setting a truly ambitious or big goal, here are some real world examples (some are missions/visions, some are strategic goals):

    • President John F. Kennedy: This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.

    • Susan G. Komen® for the Cure: A world without breast cancer.

    • Novo Nordisk: To prevent, treat and ultimately cure diabetes.

    • FedEx: The World on Time.

    • Disney: We Make People Happy

    • Mattel: To be the premier toy brands — today and tomorrow.

    • Amazon: To build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

    • SpaceX: Enable human exploration and settlement of Mars.

    • AIESEC: Engage and develop every young person in the world.

    • Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

    • Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home.

    • Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.


Are you driven to be a great leader? If so, start with developing your Ambitious Goal. Make that your focus.

  • […] to succeed as a leader, set an AMBITIOUS goal that makes a difference in the world and in your team. Then develop your’s and the […]

  • […] to succeed as a leader, set an AMBITIOUS goal that makes a difference in the world and in your team. Then develop your’s and the […]

  • >
    Scroll to Top