Learning to Lead:
Ten things I wish I had known then,
that I know now
Two things before we start…
• First – most of what I’m about to share with you I heard in
some form from either my mom or my dad before I was
eight years old. Mom had 4 years of public schools and my
dad only 2. In the years since I have probably heard at least
5 variations of each important lesson by more highly
educated and highly paid professionals. My point is you
probably already know what I’m sharing, but maybe I’ll
reinforce it’s value.
• Second – one of my favorite mentors once told me “you
know and teach the very best leadership, but you create
problems for yourself and others by not always practicing
what you know and teach.” My advice to you is to find
what works for you and to use it, always.
Learning to Lead:
ten things I wish I had known then
1. The OODA Loop
2. The Process Model
3. The Situation Appraisal
4. The Priorities Model
5. The Leadership Model
6. The Capability Model
7. The Personalities Model
8. The Culture Model
9. The Team Model
10. The Closure Model
The OODA Loop
Hindsight is 20/20. If I had known then what I know now,
the first leadership lesson would have been the OODA
loop. The story behind the OODA loop is that many
early combat pilots were lost because of crashes after
becoming disoriented in clouds. So, pilots were taught
to Observe, Orient, Decide, then Act. In my early
career, I often crashed and burned because of Acting
while Deciding then Orienting, and Observing. I had to
learn through experience to slow down my natural
extroverted judging personality. Acting and speaking
before fully thinking is still a challenge but OODA helps
me. Perhaps my career could have advanced faster
and further if I had been an early OODA adapter.
#2: The Process Model
It’s not that I didn’t hear “you are what you eat”; “you
become what you believe”; “find and follow your
star/God’s gift”; and “choose your friends carefully.” I fully
got “garbage in and garbage out.” What I didn’t get was the
systematic and logical process of “procure-protectpromote-provide.”
I often accepted less than the best and then had to work
harder at protecting and promoting to provide an inferior
product or service. All the adages I dreaded when younger
have proven to be sage advice and the messengers to be
mentors. The process model is Input + Process = Output.
My success has been higher when I give the model priority
The Situation Appraisal
I learned early to size up a situation by asking
“what’s happening here?” What I didn’t learn
until near mid-career was to ask if the
situation was a problem, a potential problem,
a decision, or, an opportunity. Once I learned
the keys to processing information differently
for each, it seems every situation became an
opportunity. Opportunities fueled my
optimism and my optimism directed and
energized my personal life and work.
The Priorities Model
In my youth, I had trouble understanding that goal
setting is about setting priorities. It was only after
wresting with what comes first in my life did I
understand the importance and priorities of life goals.
It was only after watching others close to me ruin their
health, their sense of dignity and self-esteem, their
families, and their careers that I learned to put first
things first. Spirituality is about who I am and what I
believe, my true North. Health is necessary for
sustaining all else. Family is who I turn to when the
world turns away. Finances are what I need to sustain
my family, health, and spirituality. Development is
what confirms for me that there is more to see, learn
and do. Growth is what motivates and rewards me.
My personal life improved with the priorities model.
Then, my career improved when I found the parallel
priorities exist in all organizations, and I began using
that knowledge to advance.
The Leadership Model
My dad would say “this is what we need to do and
what we will get when we do it, if we do it this way
and finish it by this time”. We harvested our crops,
cared for our livestock, filled our pantries and
cupboards, and kept a roof over our heads using
this model. Dad communicated, motivated,
educated, and administrated as well as any leader
I’ve ever known. I believe he learned from his
father who learned from his father.
Years later I feel almost guilty to be paid to learn
and then teach the same model in practically the
same words and the same order. During my career
I have been exposed to a dozen or more leadership
models. My dad is the one I follow. He knows
The Capability Model
Mom was probably the first to tell me practice makes
perfect. Likely I was learning to dress myself or tie my
shoes. Years into my career I learned the definition of
capability to be the combination of ability and capacity.
Even more years later I learned that I could not jump
into Performance Excellence with the ‘next new thing’
and should not expect others to either.
It seems a person, group, and organization have to
move from awareness to believing to build
comprehension in order to do the next new thing
repeatedly with commitment to build capability to
excel. There are no shortcuts.
The Personalities Model
Mom and dad blessed me with two older brothers, one
older sister, one younger sister and one younger brother.
We were as different from each other as humanly
possible. The oldest brother and sister were both
troubleshooters. He was more task oriented. She was
more feelings oriented. The next older brother was a
visionary. He could see it coming but couldn’t get out of
the way. The younger sister managed the entire family in
her own special way. The younger brother watched us
and became the coach. Me in the middle became the
facilitator, a combination of v/c/t/m (all four). It helps me
to seem a little wishy washy being able to see all sides like
I do. Mom said we are each special in our own way.
Some good in the worst of us and some bad in the best of
Mid-career I became certified in Personality Typing
because we all needed to learn to get along in our
organization. Mom knew that. It is a good lesson.
The Culture Model
About mid career I learned the tools we use to do our
work introduce words to the language we speak which
influences the way we meet (institutions) and the way
we express ourselves (art).
One of the top universities in the world did a study for
one of the world’s largest organizations to help the
organization through ‘culture shock.’ A premise of the
study is that all cultures have these 4 components,
however different. Deep within the study is the
conclusion stated above, only stated more scholarly.
Looking back it is easy to see how the tools of the
information age have influenced world culture.
Introducing a new tool (hardware or software)
reinforces the Russian adage “You can dance with a
bear by choosing the time, the place, and the music.
But once you begin to dance, the bear will determine
the speed, the duration, and your final condition.”
The Team Model
I’m pretty sure I learned this model as a child playing with
others. It would have saved me a lot of grief and pain if I
had understood. It seems a team is usually quiet when
forming and remains so until the members begin to
question the leader and each other. This brings on the
storming which continues until direction, support, roles,
responsibilities and boundaries are clear. With storming
clearing norming begins and continues until relationships
are established and accepted. Then, the performing can
begin. But, the process can restart with a change such as a
new leader, new member, new direction, and a change in
My best times as a leader have been when the direction
and support were clear and steady and the team stayed
The Closure Model
We don’t want to count the times I could have been a
better leader if I had consistently closed using this
model. It really is about practicing active listening.
Believe me, extroverted judgmental people can
stumble here. Take the time at the end of meetings to
How do you feel about…?
What needs to be done?
What can be done differently?
What are our next steps?
What actions need to be taken?
What are the assignments?
What are the expectations?
What are the due dates?
Are you comfortable with the plan?
Leading is the ultimate challenge. Someone once shared with me “we the
unwilling, led by the unknowing have been asked to do so much with so
little for so long that we are now capable of doing almost everything with
practically nothing in no time at all”.
So, why not make the best of it?
Two things to do to enhance your leadership:
First – determine how you feel about “learning to lead” and what you will do
differently. It is ok to disagree with what I’ve shared.
Second – determine what you need to know and do to enhance your
leadership knowledge and capability, and write your own timeline. Then,
do it with commitment, and consistency.
Learning to Lead
For information about the author search:
• LinkedIn Profile for Mitchell W. Manning, Sr.
For more from the author search:
• SlideShare Presentations and Documents by
Mitchell W. Manning, Sr.