There's a reason people want to learn more about leadership.

It's a bit like parenting. You have to learn as you go, make mistakes, adjust your strategy, and hope that no one noticed you left your 2-year-old in the produce section alone for 10 minutes by mistake while you chatted with your friend about American Idol. As someone who led large teams in business for about 12 years and now writes about leadership practices fairly often, I can tell you there is a lot to learn. By having basic skills in management, adjusting your attitude, following a few basic principles, and trusting your instincts, you can learn how to lead people and even run an entire company. You can become the next Steve Jobs.

That said, there's nothing quite like practical experience.

Recently, I heard about the husband of an author who said he doesn't really read any books. I never found out his exact role, but my guess is that he works at a large corporation. He also said he doesn't even read the books his wife writes. How sad! (The silver lining is that he actually came up with the idea for her new book. You should grab it, it's really good.)

I can relate on multiple levels. First, as a writer, I want people to read my words and not just dismiss or ignore them. It's no fun to put something out there that you've hammered and honed and have it sit in idle obscurity. Yet, as a former manager myself, I also know there's a dichotomy--even an all-out war--between conceptualizing and doing. There's nothing worse than offering advice and having no one act on the advice.

Here's the cold hard truth. It's incredibly important to learn. It's incredibly important to figure out a strategy. It's incredibly important to find mentors. But the goal is not just to learn. The goal is to take action and put the ideas into practice. The goal is to change.

I remember in college someone told me a story about how a young man approached Socrates and asked how to acquire wisdom. Socrates, being the edgy philosophical type--he'd probably wear his cap backwards at Starbucks and use a Mac--grabbed the guy and held him under water. He said, when you want wisdom as much as you want to breathe, you will find it. I'm guessing the guy learned his lesson.

I want to add to that story a little. (No, I am not trying to outthink Socrates.) You should want to learn about leadership as much as you want to breathe. Yet, to really learn, you need to jump in the water. The best business advice in the world won't resonate with you until you plug your nose, jump in with both feet, and go for a swim. It won't be proven true until you act on the knowledge you are gaining, but more importantly it won't really sink in (excuse the pun). By taking action, the advice will become relevant to you.

I'm not advising you to stop reading and learning. Far from it. For those who want to become exceptional leaders, fill your head with strategy and good ideas, then put those ideas into practice. When you do, you will find out what works for you.

Just lead.