Most of us learn to lead through apprenticeship, watching role models -- good and bad. Some of us study the greats (WWJWD? What would Jack Welch do? WWSJD? What would Steve Jobs do?), but no one finds a simple leadership recipe. We also learn, sometimes painfully, through trial and error on the job. Each of these approaches has a downside. Our bosses don't always become bosses because of their best practice leadership skills; so their style may not be the best model to replicate.
While we can learn from the leadership recipes of the greats, honestly, we only get the highlight reel of what they accomplished; we often don’t know that much about how they did it. To be our personal best, we must develop our own leadership recipe based on our unique skills, personality, and the situations we face. So learning through our own experience is probably the most relevant approach, but it can take a long time and our missteps can be painful for the team and for the business.
A Different Way to Learn to Lead
Business simulations are a different way to learn to lead. They provide a risk free way to develop your personal leadership recipe and to explore it in the face of a complex environment.
Your personal leadership recipe starts with your strengths and a plan to counterbalance your gaps. It helps you understand your “go-to” skills so that you will use them to your best advantage and the advantage of your team and organization. A business simulation helps you understand your leadership recipe by giving you feedback and insight into how you intuitively tackle problems and situations. A simulation lets you experiment with new approaches without economic cost to your business or relationship cost to your team.
In addition, leading effectively requires an integrated basket of skills, judgement, and awareness, of situations and of oneself. While a leader can develop any one of those elements individually, in the real world, leaders never use these skills in isolation. A business simulation with a complex backstory and situational context creates a real-world testing ground for leaders to learn without a roadmap of which leadership skills to use when.
The best business simulations create context that challenges both the heart and the head; include both human dynamics and economic dynamics; reflect both the “soft” and “hard” challenges of leadership. It is at the intersection of those challenges that great leaders develop their skills and develop the leadership capabilities that will serve them well in their careers.
Rich context business simulations accelerate the ad hoc process of learning to lead and make that process more intentional and actionable for leaders at all levels.
Amanda Young Hickman is co-founder of Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.