Skills for Academic Success Might Not Work @ Work

Source: Quartz, Feb 2016

Learn to improvise

In traditional school environments, students are given the opportunity to prepare for whatever they’ll be asked to do. They can study before a test and do the reading before they’re asked to speak about a subject in class. Imagine the student and parent outcry that would occur if a teacher gave a test on a topic the students hadn’t learned anything about.

Yet as we move into leadership positions, we need to be comfortable with improvisation. A major client may asks a question we never could have anticipated. A key team member could suddenly have to take medical leave. A change in the market can make what was a previously a wise strategy into a very weak one.

Trust yourself

In order to improvise, you need to trust that your existing skills, knowledge, personal capabilities are sufficient to guide your actions. Schools often erode this kind of self-confidence. Students are asked again and again to turn to research, books, and professors’ lectures to acquire knowledge and internalize it. The implicit message is that students’ value is contingent upon what they’ve learned from outside resources. Students are rarely asked to speak, write, or create from what they already know. But that’s a key skill for leaders.

Influence authority

…  cultivate our abilities as leaders, we need the opposite skill: The ability to recognize and stick with what is distinctive about our thinking, and use these distinctive traits to influence and challenge authority.


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