In Order to Grow, Reach Out and Teach

We are in a series discussing and learning from the recently published book titled Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life. The book, authored by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller is available wherever best selling books are sold. The book is directly applicable to any person who desires to become a more effective healthcare leader. For your convenience, the previous six articles in this series can be found at:


In the chapter titled “Reaching Out to Others,” Debbie, Blake’s mentor, discusses the second of four critical areas for leadership growth. Debbie emphasizes to Blake, “To GROW as a leader, you’ve got to reach out to others.” She explains, “You need to be proactive about helping others grow if you’re going to grow and learn.”


In response, Blake asks, “How do I help others GROW?” Debbie replies, “For starters, one of the best ways to learn is to teach.” She goes on to say, “The fact is, teaching is one of the primary ways that leaders learn.”


In many ways, this crucial leadership principle is the story of my life. For some reason I have always enjoyed and had a knack for teaching. I quickly learned that for me, teaching is the best way to truly learn, master and retain proficiency in a subject, process, procedure or whatever is being learned. Some examples from my life of learning and teaching are as follows:


  • In high school, I taught other students to drive. As a result, I became a much better driver! As an added benefit, I was frequently asked to drive cars and other vehicles filled with high school athletes, cheerleaders and other students to games and sporting events in throughout western Nebraska. In the sparsely populated area where I grew up, it is common to drive four to six hours to “away games,” and then another four to six hours or more going back home. I didn’t mind the long drives – I enjoyed the position of honor in the driver’s seat!
  • In college I decided to learn to play classical and flamenco guitar. Before long, I was teaching 60 or more students a week. Not only did I rapidly improve as a guitarist, the earnings from my teaching paid my way through college.
  • As a hospital CEO, I loved to continuously teach our leadership team and all employees. As a result, our hospital grew rapidly and was profitable every year while I served there.
  • While still a full-time hospital CEO, I started leading and teaching one-day seminars across America focused on Physician Recruitment, Retention and Medical Staff Development. Soon I was learning more from the 40 to 50 senior healthcare leaders in each seminar than they were learning from me! An added benefit of this unique teaching and learning opportunity were the profits these seminars brought in. In addition to the price I charged for each seminar, I was also able to sell hundreds of packets of information to those same seminar participants each year. Not only was I able to apply everything I learned to my own healthcare organization, I was also able to purchase rental properties with these significant earnings from teaching (and learning from) others. I still own all of those rental properties today, and they are all debt free. Talk about winning and learning by teaching!
  • At VHA, the areas for which I was responsible ranked number one in the entire company in customer satisfaction and employ satisfaction. That did not happen by accident. Our mission and focus was to teach our members and constituents, and to learn how to serve and teach them better.
  • Over the years, I have also had the privilege of serving as an adjunct professor at 4 different universities.  I have learned and gained immensely in more ways than I can describe as a result of teaching and learning from thousands of students.


Even though I could “retire” and never work another day in my life, I continue to work… and teach… and learn!  I tried retirement for six months and I never want to go back.  I love my work… my work is to read, think, write, learn… and prepare to teach.


Do you want to grow and improve as a leader, as a person, as a parent, as a professional and in every other area of your life?


My advice is simple and direct: Teach and learn, and then enjoy the incredible ROI in every area of your life!


There is no greater calling and no better, more fulfilling life than to teach, teach, teach!



NielsenCopyright © 2013 by Dan Nielsen, Founder

National Institute for Healthcare Leadership  –

America’s Healthcare Leaders  –

Dan Nielsen Company –

Cell 214-695-1292


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