Leadership, Experience and the Intangibles


The other night experienced quarterback Tony Romo was interviewed before the Cowboys played the Redskins. In commenting on his development as a leader on the team, he replied that experience is the best tool for developing the decision-making skills necessary to win.

He’s right of course but that common bit of wisdom isn’t true for many leaders. Why? In order to learn from experience a leader must invest time in trying to learn from experience. Romo spends hours watching films of his decisions and their consequences. Most of us are too busy with our schedules, meetings, responsibilities and worries about our image to even consider evaluating our decisions. Far easier to find someone to blame.

A leader has to invest time in the intangibles, those things that don’t produce an immediate outcome: reflection, evaluation, integration. We will not learn from experience unless we are intentional about carving out time reflecting on what we do and how we do it.

Try this. Make a list of the decisions you or your board, committee, or department have made in the last six months. Now sit down with the list and see which decisions worked, which did not, what patterns emerge, which generated the most heat, the most yawns. What is experience teaching you?

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