Simplest Way to Become a Better Leader

I played soccer for 14 years, but I have always sucked at juggling. For those unfamiliar, this is basically playing hacky sack with a soccer ball.

It seemed like no matter how much I practiced, I never got any better. They say practice makes perfect, right? Wrong, at least in this case.

It was infuriating, especially because my senior year of high school my coach made us practice juggling almost every day. If we didn’t make a certain number of touches, we ran. Let’s just say I ran. A lot.

One day, maybe out of frustration, maybe because it was a particularly warm, Texas afternoon, I stopped juggling and just watched. What I was doing wasn’t working, but maybe if I watched the girls who were good at it, I could figure it out.

After watching, I realized some important things I was doing wrong. After making modifications, I improved quite a bit. I’m pretty sure I still had to run, but hey, I was just proud to actually be doing it.

Observing helps you learn, this is scientifically proven. Think about children, they learn entirely from watching and listening to those who are older and more advanced than them. One day they’re fumbling out sounds and you can’t wait for them to talk, and before you know it you just wish they’d be quiet.

Studies have shown that simply watching someone perform an activity can help a person develop their own skills. This is because we have what are called “mirror neurons,” which light up just by watching someone perform an action. It’s almost as if the person observing is actually participating.

For instance, an experienced hurdler can watch other runners run hurdles, and they will experience high levels of activity in the part of the brain that controls the movement of running hurdles, just by watching.

Now, there is a catch. You can’t become an NFL player by watching star quarterbacks play if you’ve never touched a football before. These mirror neurons require the preexistence of neural pathways developed from previously performing an activity.

But if you possess a skill you want to improve on, watching other, more advanced people perform the skill provides immense benefit.

On this week’s podcast, Benji shared a message he preached at his local church a couple weeks ago titled “Jesus Is Better.”

In the intro, he shared his struggle with whether or not to post the message, debating if it points out leadership, culture, or art, which is the whole purpose of Trailblazer. Ultimately, he decided to go ahead with it because he believes that one of the best ways to get better is by listening to other people who are doing what we’re doing. By publishing his public speaking, someone could potentially get tips on how to speak, engage, transition, and more.

The facts are there, we learn by observing. Who do you know of that’s doing what you’re doing that you can learn from?

Maybe this means listening to a podcast or reading a blog (if you’re here, you’re already doing it!). Maybe this means picking up a book. Maybe this means shadowing someone in your desired career. Maybe this means having a conversation with someone who is farther along than you are.

At Trailblazer we believe learning from others is a CRUCIAL rung in your ladder to becoming the best leader you can be. Don’t do it alone, learn from those who have successfully blazed their own trails and take what you learn to blaze yours.

Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be the one someone learns from.

- Victoria Rinear