Learning to Lead: Developing Leadership Skills

Success in almost any group endeavor requires strong leaders. A common point of debate is whether you are born a leader, or can learn to become a leader. I fall into the category of people who believe that the skill set of effective leadership can be learned. That being said, it’s not easy and it won’t happen overnight. It requires a keen focus and an intentional approach to development.


As a former Division I college athlete and captain, and eight-year college wrestling coach, leadership has always been an important part of my life. I have read dozens of books on leadership, gone to seminars and workshops, and have taken graduate level courses on the subject. I recently made a career transition and am now in the business world.

What has been surprising to me is that leadership on the athletic field
is very similar to leadership in business.

A quarterback, for example calls plays and directs his teammates on the field by taking command and exuding confidence in himself and those around him. This is similar to a manager who is leading a meeting in a conference room. He or she can take command in a similar way and give direction and guidance to his or her teammates. A strong leader in either case raises the level of those around them and directly impacts the success of the whole organization in the process.

Develop The Tool

It is difficult to become a strong leader just from reading a book or going to a seminar. You can develop the skill set, but it takes effort.  Just like athletics, one of the most important elements to being great is practice, and that practice should follow a progression (i.e. lead a small group meeting, work your way into managing a project, and eventually get promoted to run a business unit). In order to make the practice productive and developmental, you also need feedback. Feedback and encouragement coupled with constructive criticism and corrective measures are vital to growth as a person and a leader.

Some Leadership Advice

I will end with a few key principles that have taken me a long way as an athlete, a coach, and now as a professional. Be consistent and committed. Being consistent in your effort and committed to your goals are vital leadership characteristics, no matter what kind of organization you are a part of. Those two qualities are a big part of why people will choose to follow you.

Another important thing is follow-through. Whatever you say you are going to do, do it. Be a dependable presence so that everyone around you has total confidence that they can rely on you to get things done. Keep those things in mind and you are well on your way to becoming a true leader!

In the next part of this series, I will be discussing leadership from an organization perspective. So stay tuned…

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  1. Dan PayneMay 13, 2014

    I think your Uncle is John Owen, I wrestled for him from 1977-79 at NIC.

  2. JP OuelletteMay 14, 2014

    Great job Pat! Our generation needs good leaders!

  3. AllisonMay 14, 2014

    Very good read. Lots of added value.

  4. jeff MartinMay 14, 2014

    I was not so fortunate as to learn the importance of teamwork in the athletic arena. It is an incredibly important skill to learn and indeed necessary to achieving success.

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