Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

The Value of Personal Experience and Expertise

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Admiral Hyman Rickover on an Inspection Tour

The value of experience and expertise in evaluating potential risks cannot be overstated. As has been previously addressed, the great leaders endured a “crucible period” of disappointment, frustration, failure and adversity. These shaped their experiences and expertise and prepared them to adequately assess risks that were placed before them.

A case in point of this was J.P. Morgan (J.P. Morgan Bank). “There can be no doubt that Morgan was a dreamer, occupying his time thinking of grand schemes and larger than life business deals. But, he never lost himself in the clouds. He knew that in order to achieve success on the scale that he dreamed of, he needed to take practical and concrete steps in that direction. Thus, through education and taking on junior positions at investment firms and banking houses, Morgan took the time he needed to gain the experience that would enable him to realize his dreams.” [1]

J.C. Penney (J.C. Penney) observed, “The greatest misfortune that can befall a man is to be placed in an advanced position without having earned the experience below it. Business progress is like climbing a ladder. It must be ascended rung by rung.” [2]

Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) having built the U.S. nuclear navy, while directly interviewing and hiring over 10,000 officers during his career asserted, “A cause of many of our mistakes and problems is ignorance.” [3] He stated in a 1981 speech at the Columbia University School of Engineering, “Our factories and companies are increasingly being bought, sold, and operated by professional administrators, lawyers, and financial experts who have little understanding of their products, the technology involved, or the needs of customers. As these professional ‘managers’ reach top corporate positions, others emulate them and avoid technical education in favor of management studies. In my opinion, our universities should emphasize the importance of a solid grounding in substantive learning and downgrade so-called management science. What it takes to do a job will not be learned from management courses. It is principally a matter of experience, the proper attitude, and common sense – none of which can be taught in a classroom.” [4]

The lessons extracted from experience and expertise is vital in the task of assessing risks. Individuals intuitively seem to know exactly where the roadblocks and detours are and how to avoid them. They possess the wisdom to understand the consequences of past mistakes and faulty decisions and utilize the knowledge gained to their advantage.

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the value of experience and expertise of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved


[1]  Carmichael Evan, How He Built an Empire: J.P. Morgan’s Success Factors (evancarmichael.com)

[2]  Penney J.C., Lines of a Layman (Channel Press, Great Neck, NY, 1956) p. 105

[3]  Admiral Rickover H.C., Thoughts on Man’s Purpose in Life (speech presented at the San Diego Rotary Club, 1977)

[4]  Admiral Rickover H.C., Doing a Job (management philosophy speech at Columbia University School of Engineering, 1981; CoEvolution Quarterly, 1982)

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Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

November 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

6 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Jamar L. Freeze.

    Jamar Freeze

    November 30, 2011 at 8:25 am

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