28 June 2010

15 leadership lessons learned through AIESEC

In no particular order, the lessons I learned in my AIESEC experience:

1. It’s better to have no people than the wrong people – self-explanatory, but the thing is that when you don’t have anyone, at least you know you have a problem. When you have the wrong people, you fight to make them right and this generally fails.

2. Your team is a reflection of your behavior – when a team is down or up or anything, look at yourself as team leader. Inevitably you will be in the same state, so don’t get pissed off with them. Change yourself!

3. Get out of the throne and rush to the battle, your Majesty – it’s very pretty to say you are an strategic leader and sit in your office commanding the troops. Get out there and do stuff. Be present where the things are happening, because you can impact a lot by being an example in the battlefield, not in the board room.

4. People are different, accept and act accordingly – we all like to think we are unique, except when we want people to agree with us. Accept that people are different, they value different things and need to be treated not as you would like to be treated, but as they would like/need to be treated. Some people need pushing, some people need pulling, most people need both in different times.

5. Top down looks smart, but it’s dumb – top down approach is a nice temptation, but it will work much better if you can involve the bottom and middle (or parts of it) in the change. It’s dumb to come up with solutions that considers only the upper organization ‘s viewpoint, use multiple perspectives.

6. If middle management is not onboard, your boat won’t sail – leaders and managers that make things happen are a huge bottle neck for change (or the most awesome lever). What do you want them to be? Get them onboard early.

7. Make it simple, as simple as you can – complexity looks professional, but it’s just a lame way to solve problems. Look at Google, anyone knows how to use it because it’s damn simple.

8. You can’t build Rome in a day – change takes time. Plan accordingly – or conservatively.

9. Focus, focus, focus – you know you can’t build Rome in a day, but you also can’t build it all at the same time. So choose wisely what you want your organization to be doing and focus on it as hell with consistent behavior and messages that reinforce what you want to focus on.

10. Whole human-being is not a theory, is a fact – humans are not rational machines. There is at least 3 equal parts in humans: emotion, sensation and rational. Tap into those 3 human perspectives to lead effectively.

11. Adapt the job to the people, not the other way around – use people’s strengths when allocating responsibilities and don’t be trapped in functional job descriptions. In the end, the only thing that matters is to achieve the vision while making the mission happen. Complicated organization structures and systems should help you perform, not make it harder.

12. Accept reality and act upon it – it’s very easy to get trapped in an ideal world where things should be different. Accept what things really are and act as they are, not as they hypothetically should be.

13. Simple and visible plan – Simple plan, with clear and measurable goals, clear action, responsible and deadline. Make it visible also – we’ve put our plan and scoreboard on the wall, it was simple perfect.

14. Trust the team – if you heard hint number 1, you should have only quality people. Stretch their potential by giving them more and more trust and larger and larger responsibilities. You will be 80% of the time surprised positively.

15. Have a strong vision for direction and put all your efforts in it – and then use hint number 9: focus, focus, focus, while also taking an active decision to not focus on some things, important or urgent as they might be. If you need to do many things that are not on the vision or your vision is wrong/incomplete or your work is wrong.


  1. I loved this post!!! it's our Big Bang lessons :)) post it on AIESEC Norway blog, please!

  2. I really like this post! I hope you don't mind me to share these lessons with my LCPs' team?
    I'll put the link to your post :)

    warmest hugs from Macedonia,

  3. Awesome thoughts and you are right for each of them:)I've read long time ago and now I just saw in my mail drafts.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    greetings from Macedonia


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