Formal Education is Valuable for Leaders

Education. We would all say that it is important, but we would disagree as to the best path for education. School? Life experience? Self-discovery?

As we grew up, many people told us that education was important. “Get your degree!” “College will open the doors to your DREAM JOB!”

And so on.

Education or Experience?

Yet some within our generation proclaim the superiority of education through real-life experiences. Instead of getting a formal education, some would declare that trying things on your own is far more beneficial than the traditional classroom.

But as millennials, we need to be wary of that kind of thinking. Yes, we all should be constantly learning from our life experiences, but we should also remember that those who achieve wild success without going to school are the exception, not the norm.

Let me pause here, though, and acknowledge what we all know: a college degree does not guarantee success. Our student loan debt is proof of that fact.

But formal education does something that nothing else can do:

It teaches you all that you do not know.

The Value of Clarifying Your Ignorance

Think back to your college days (I remember mine well). Nearly every freshman in every department was ready to take on the world and solve problems that have existed for centuries. They were idealistic, motivated, and thoroughly naive.

The seniors, on the other hand, could not be more different. They were laid back, less vocal, and far more thoughtful. Since they were further down the education journey, they had discovered all that they did not know. This discovery helped them develop the ability to seek knowledge and admit ignorance.

If we are going to be great leaders, we need to place a high value on school. Maybe we need to go back to school to get a master’s degree. Maybe we should even consider a doctorate (I am looking in to PhD programs personally).

Allow me to interject a personal caveat: I am the guy who technically graduated college 4 years after I left. My undergraduate degree is in music, and music degrees require a senior recital. That recital was the one thing I did not finish, and it took me 4 years to finally do it. For the longest time, I rejected the notion that formal education was necessary. But thankfully my wife was persistent enough to open my eyes to the significant errors in my thinking. Now, I think formal education is increasingly important in modern society.

When we value formal education (whether a university, trade school, or even apprenticeship), we show that we are prepared to learn how much we do not know. We are prepared to submit ourselves to the wisdom and instruction of those much wiser than us, and we are able to stretch ourselves in new ways.

Yes, you should learn from real-life experiences. But do not idolize those who elevate experience over school. They are the exception. Instead, learn to value formal education. It will equip you to go far in your leadership journey.

Because great leaders know there is a lot they don’t know, and they act accordingly.

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