Not having a college degree made me a better leader


p 1 5 ways not having a college degree made me a better leader

One of many largest life classes I’ve realized over time is that it’s okay to go towards the grain. I consider that typically it is advisable reject a social norm to remain true to your self—and the explanation I do know that’s true is as a result of it’s precisely what I did once I dropped out of college.

Now, that’s not one thing that I’ve all the time been open about. In truth, for a few years I felt ashamed. Partially as a result of I assumed it meant I wasn’t as sensible as different individuals—a thought that was made exponentially worse as I in contrast myself to my friends, a few of whom have been busy incomes a number of levels—and partly as a result of I assumed it made me a failure.

I did attend college briefly. I attempted unsuccessfully to play soccer for a college in Utah, however that didn’t work out. I got here dwelling and attended Arizona State College, the place I did nicely in advertising lessons and was lively within the enterprise college’s advertising membership, however I nonetheless struggled with my different lessons. For a artistic, tactile learner like myself, sitting by means of 45-minute lectures in a classroom was painful. Not solely was it difficult, however I all the time resented the truth that it felt like I used to be being taught the way to memorize information and formulation reasonably than the way to really use them. My vanity plummeted, and I made a decision college was not for me.


It took me a very long time to know that individuals be taught in a different way, and that self esteem shouldn’t be tied to a college diploma. Ultimately, I felt much less disgrace figuring out that a number of the strongest enterprise leaders on the earth—from Steve Jobs and Richard Branson to Larry Ellison and Debbi Fields—have by no means earned a college degree. In truth, a 2017 CNBC Survey Monkey Small Business Survey reported that a majority of small enterprise homeowners within the U.S. don’t have a college degree they usually outnumber these with a bachelor’s degree or larger.

Realizing this helped me transfer ahead. In spite of everything, I knew I had a sturdy entrepreneurial spirit and several other clever mentors to information me in my quest to succeed. As we speak, at 39, I’m the cofounder, president, and CEO of a fast-growing promoting and digital advertising agency.

Trying again, I’m grateful for my path. In truth, in some ways, not having a college degree has helped me change into a better leader. I realized to:

Be resourceful

Some individuals inform me I’m “road sensible” and there’s no doubt that I realized from the “college of onerous knocks,” however I consider a massive a part of my success has been as a result of I’m resourceful. I feel outdoors of the field. If there’s a roadblock, I’ll discover a fast, artistic manner round it. Not having a college degree compelled me to be resourceful, and for that, I’m grateful.

Embrace failure

All of us fail. It’s how we take care of failure that issues. Not having a college degree made me hungrier to succeed, so I realized to take extra calculated dangers, make daring choices, and be taught from my errors and failures. 


Have empathy

Nice leaders have and present empathy. For me, not having a college degree has made me much less judgmental, particularly with regards to selecting who joins our group. If I see potential in a job candidate or if an worker demonstrates a ardour for creativity, I received’t let a college degree have an effect on my choice to rent or promote them. I’m empathetic to the truth that all of us have totally different profession paths on our life journeys.

Encompass your self with sensible leaders

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn was spot on when he stated, “you’re the common of the 5 individuals you spend probably the most time with.” Not having a college degree taught me the significance of networking with profitable leaders. It’s a key motive why I’m lively with each Younger Presidents’ Affiliation and Entrepreneurs’ Group. 

Continue learning and cocreate

Would a college degree have modified my thirst for information? I don’t assume so. However one factor is for positive: The truth that I didn’t earn a degree, meant that I jumped at alternatives to cocreate with different imaginative individuals. I’m additionally always working by myself skilled improvement. It doesn’t matter what stage of my life, I’ll all the time be looking for alternatives to be taught.

I hope the social norms dictating that individuals earn a college degree will change so our society is extra accepting of people that select a totally different path. As a father of a younger son and daughter, I fear in regards to the pressures they may face throughout and after highschool. You possibly can guess that I’ll be supporting them to align their profession path with their passions, no matter that could be.

Scott Harkey is the president and CEO of OH Partners.