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What I didn’t learn in school about leading others

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Standout leadership is not discovered in any textbook. It is born in the trenches where results are achieved, conflict occurs, people engage and pain is experienced.

Every day is different. Each day teaches you something new.

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My schooling as a leader covered more than 12,000 days; here are five key lessons they taught me.

1. Imperfection explains most success

Unfortunately, school teaches us that problems have "right" answers. This belief is a non-starter in business, where workable and remarkable solutions are often inelegant and messy. But they are effective because they capture the hearts of the people implementing them.

Business is fluid. It can't be explained by trend analysis. "Plan A" rarely works. If you are doing lots of imperfect stuff fast, you are on the right track.

2. Losing is a better teacher than success

Success encourages you to stay with the playbook that has worked so far and doesn't force you to deviate. Losing, on the other hand, forces you to get out of your comfort zone, to try a different approach and create a new box to play in.

When you lose, study your failure from every possible angle. Your "post-loss analysis" will guide you effectively as you encounter future situations.

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3. What got you here is irrelevant

It won't get you to where you need to go. It's all about "What have you done for me lately?" Every new challenge requires something different of you.

Have the discipline to ask "What do I have to do differently now that I have new responsibilities?" And keep your feet moving. Every day should be a new day in terms of doing something startling.

4. Outrageous demands sometimes get met

People who are known for unique skills and have strong currency within an organization earn the right to be bold, to stick out their chins and blatantly ask for what they want even though it may be "ridiculous."

But leverage is vital (the organization needs you to perform a vital role) and timing is critical (they need you now). If you have both, you will be surprised with what you can accomplish. Make yourself invaluable; watch for the opening and ask.

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5. Suck it up when you think you've been screwed over

You will always have setbacks; that's the way it is. What really matters is how you deal with an outcome that doesn't go as you would like.

The key thing to understand in these circumstances is that it's done. You have zero ability to change the decision that has been made. The only thing you have any degree of control over is what you do next. So, take the punch; congratulate the winner; muzzle your ego and move on.

Another day, another leader learning opportunity.

Take advantage of it.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead, dedicated to helping organizations and individuals stand out from the competitive herd.

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