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The Leadership Triangle


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When you think about developing leadership skills for yourself or others picture a triangle. Draw a triangle on a piece of paper and label the three points: education, experience and feedback.

Let's start with education, shall we?

I think most of us would agree that the foundation of a leadership training program is education. But I think that's an incomplete assumption. What we gain from education is a standardized body of knowledge for the discipline being studied that provides you with a core set of theories. We rely on our college and university systems to deliver this foundation.

Your formal education helps you to think differently about the challenges you are facing. These intellectual experiences support your day to day work activities. Education broadens your thoughts and views by introducing you to general theories and principles that you'll use to formulate situational conclusions.

Education and professional development courses or programs include reading and discussing books, E-books, articles, seminars, and best practices, audio and video programs by well known experts.
Use your education and professional development knowledge to help you think outside the box and adapt to a changing environment. You will never again accept that's the way we've always done it.

Education alone is not enough to develop your current and future leaders.
Let's move on to the second element of the triangle, experience.
We've all heard the expression experience is the best teacher. But is it really? Not without education and feedback.

What's the best way to get good experience?

I believe it's best developed by assigning a task to the individual or team. When the task is completed according to standards the level of difficulty in the next task is increased. Applying this process increases performance and sets a high standard of excellence. By increasing the level of difficulty or stress over time your subordinates will gain competence and confidence. Experience comes from requiring the right training in the right way to perform the task plus practice, practice, practice in short repetition. There is an element of risk on your part if the individual or team does not meet standards; as the leader you are responsible. This is not necessarily a bad thing. When the mind is put under stress it releases a chemical that fosters learning.

I became a believer in combining the three elements of education, experience and feedback in the training process as a culinary student a Johnson and Wales University. From 6 a. m. to 8 a. m. we would study the history and theory of cooking. From 8 a. m. to 11 a. m. we would be assigned menu items to cook for lunch and then serve the meal at 11:30 a. m. At 1 p. m. we received feedback from the Chef Instructor and other students. It was a process that kept you humble with a level of stress that drove you to perform according to standards.

Be on guard for poor repetition and practice, it is just as habit forming as good repetition and practice. Experience alone is not enough to gain leadership competence and good judgment.
The third element of the leadership triangle is my favorite, feedback.

Feedback allows the leader to use his or her experience and education to guide, teach and mentor subordinates. Leaders must actively search for opportunities to give and receive feedback. It is critical to your success that subordinates always know where they stand and how they can improve their performance. In my judgment feedback offers the leader the greatest opportunity to teach and mentor in a collaborative way by building trust, confidence and rapport with subordinates.

Feedback comes in various forms: face-to-face discussion or instruction, written reports, e-mails, hands on demonstrations, counseling, letters of appreciation, performance reviews and role playing or a simple thank you, to name a few.

We spend far too much time giving negative feedback. For feedback to be successful it must complete a circle. It is not enough to tell an employee what was done wrong or what could be improved. Catch your employees doing things right then reinforce their positive actions. Your staff will perform well those tasks that you pay attention to. The feedback should be timely, specific, understandable, accurate, controllable and given by someone the employee respects, and who demonstrates a desire for the employee to be successful.

Bring out the best in others by what is best in you. Use the leadership triangle as your guide. Great leaders invest considerable time and energy developing subordinates for successful leadership assignments.

By including the three elements of the leadership triangle, education, experience and feedback, in your leadership development you create a holistic view of your assessments to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.

Your goal should be to create a leader with well rounded skills; excellent people skills first and foremost and solid technical skills.

Be a leader who is remembered for a lifetime because you made a positive impact on the people you led.

If you are experiencing fear about deciding to be a leader, laugh your fears away by following this simple plan. Kenneth E. Strong, Jr, can help you eliminate those fears and give you the confidence to lead.

Download you copy of “Leadership Is A Choice" today at

Feel free to use this article, in your publications, newsletters, blogs, e-zines and web sites in its entirety provided you include the following: Copyright 2008 All rights reserved. Kenneth E Strong, Jr. Front Row Connections, LLC, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Kenneth E. Strong, Jr. , M. S. , has been a licensed Nursing Home Administrator and Chief Operation Officer for 28 years. Mr. Strong received a Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration from Providence College and a Master of Science in Health Care Administration from Salve Regina College.

The American Geriatric Society has published his articles and he has spoken on a variety of topics for the American College of Health Care Administrators and the New England Not-for-Profit Providers Conferences.


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