10 Lessons from 10 Years: Filter the Feedback

February 28th, 2018

Welcome to Lesson 2 of African Leadership Academy CEO Chris Bradford's reflections on lessons learnt over the past 10 years of establishing Africa's leading educational institution.

Lesson Number 2: Don’t Overreact to Present Feedback

'As a leader ...  I must develop systems that allow me to differentiate between “signal” and “noise”'


In May 2017, I led a set of interviews with ALA students who had been exceptionally successful at university. They included a university valedictorian, an award-winning entrepreneur, and a leading technologist who had just won a global innovation prize. I asked them to reflect on their time at ALA, and to share specific individuals and experiences that put them on the path to these exceptional achievements in the years that followed.

The successful graduates named a number of ALA teachers, as one would expect: we have an exceptional collection of educators on this campus.

But the two most frequently cited individuals have never won the teaching award at ALA, as elected by the student body at the end of each term! What these two teachers are doing in their classrooms is really, really important – but our students only seem to truly recognize their importance after they have left campus.

Feedback is important, and one of our greatest sources of leadership learning. But something that might seem unimportant today may turn out to be very important over the long term. And something that seems to be really important today might, in reality, not be very important over the long term.

As a leader, I must have a sense of the “action logic” that will enable the long-term outcomes we seek. I must build systems that allow me to capture feedback, and I must carefully consider and note the feedback I receive.

But I also must have the courage and conviction to stay the course when necessary. I must develop systems that allow me to differentiate between “signal” and “noise”.

In 2008, a few short months into ALA’s history, we had a rocky period. Ninety percent of our faculty members were signatories to a letter demanding that Fred and I step down from our leadership roles and oversight of the program. This was a painful moment for me. But if we had followed through on the very clear feedback we had received, ALA probably would not be where we are today!

Are you creating processes that allow you to capture broad feedback – both qualitative and quantitative? Are you receiving feedback today that you believe will not matter in the long run? If so, how might you acknowledge that feedback while staying the course?

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If you're new to the series, or wanting to review, click on the button below for Lesson 1.