No Substitute for Practical Experience

By | December 13, 2017

[December 13, 2017]  In the movie Aliens (1986), there is a scene where highly-trained colonial marines are about to be airdropped into a facility where they are to fight against the sinister extraterrestrials.  When asked by Ripley how many combat drops Lieutenant Gorman has under his belt, he replies, “uh, two, including this one.”  It did not inspire his men … practical experience matters.

It comes as no surprise that when new “green” military units are introduced to combat, they are ideally given gradual exposure to the complexity, violence, and confusion of the battlefield.  This gives them time to acclimate individually but also to gel as a unit.  One thing we see in people anywhere, when emergencies arise, those folks gravitate to others who have relevant experiences.

Practical experience provides a number of advantages.  Here are just a few:

  1. Builds confidence, strength, and courage.
  2. Increases relevant knowledge and information that can be used more effectively.
  3. Reduces ineffective or dangerous behavior.
  4. Successful leaders will gain responsibility while ineffective leaders will be marginalized.
  5. Reduces stress, lessens risks, and increases flexibility.
  6. Increases team effectiveness quicker than normal.
  7. Reduces biases and effectiveness of propaganda and disinformation.

“Be brave.  Take risks.  Nothing can substitute experience.” – Paulo Coelho, Brazilian lyricist

Practical experience has always been the marker for the best leader.  Whether in combat, in a corporate board room, on the field of sports, or in any human venue, those with the most practical experience are those who will be looked up to lead.  It matters not what rank or position a person holds, the one with experience will be seen as the leader and with that comes responsibility.

Experience can, however, come in many forms.  Experience can be good, bad, or indifferent yet those with it are still seen as leaders.  For example, teenagers who are first in their in-group to take illegal drugs are often idolized for their courage and spunk.  More often we view experience as “practical” rather than good or bad.  This helps us get a better understanding why leaders actively seek relevant experience because it assists them in improving their leadership skills.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.