If you have ever traveled across country by train, you know that meals are served with community seating. That means you can meet new people with every meal.
In late March I took train home (to Southern California) from an engagement in Massachusetts. One evening my meal companions consisted of a very nice couple and a teenager. At first, teenager had little to say. (Parents, does this sound familiar?) But through my questions he told us that he was 16, wanted to be an attorney, and could bench press 325 pounds.
Then I asked him, "What three recommendations would you give to someone in 8th grade about high school?" Without hesitation he gave an answer that all of us can use. Here are his recommendations, with my comments on how they apply to leaders:
1) Watch who you hang out with.
Certainly, your friends define who you are.
Leaders know this and thus build organizations that consist of people who reinforce productive work, discourage destructive behavior, and provide a variety of complementary skills.
A wise leader will direct a person's development by placing person with colleagues who have beneficial characteristics. Similarly, this explains why some leaders work with a coach who provides a contrast to their preferred style.
You can also manage your personal growth by associating with people who have achieved what you aspire to have. For example, one entrepreneur left a mastermind group of millionaires to join a group of multimillionaires.
2) The next four years are very important.