[June 17, 2014] Practicing leadership skills is not something we normally think about when it comes to improving our leader talents. Athletes, target shooters, musicians, Army tank crews, etc., all have scheduled practice sessions designed to improve their performance. But, what about leaders, do they practice their trade? Yes, leadership requires practice … however, maybe not in a traditional way of thinking.
Leadership requires practice because to get better, there is no substitute for a deliberate effort designed to improve action. As long as a leader has interest to improve their performance and takes purposeful steps to do so, that is what we call practice. True, this is done with on-the-job experience but leaders who desire to improve will reflect on ways to do better.
Leaders that seek out other professional leaders who can teach, coach, and mentor them are those who have made a conscious decision to improve. This gives that leader feedback on their past performance and provides a non-judgmental way of elevating performance. Furthermore, this is one of the best ways to accelerate the development of leadership skills.
The traditional studies of leadership through professional-level reading, developmental leadership courses, and interaction with other experienced leaders are a few other ways to improving leader talent. As long as the leader is taking steps to improve, then we can rightfully call it “practice”.
We have all met “leaders” that have no desire to improve their skills. Many have no sense at what it means to be a leader. These are often toxic to the work environment and to the people around them. Perhaps they have “hope” that they will get better but do not want to do the work and study required to make changes in themselves. This is unfortunate. Such people are unwilling to practice leadership and will harm themselves and others as a leader.
“Champions keep playing until they get it right.” – Billie Jean King1
Leadership must always be about improving. Leadership requires practice. Practice must be deliberate and involve all those traits we normally think of when we have the passion to be the best at what we do.
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 Some other quotes that I like regarding the concept of practice:
- “Practice makes perfect.” – English proverb
- “Practice isn’t the thing you do when you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” – Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
- “You are what you practice most.” – Richard Carlson
- “Tomorrow’s victory is today’s practice.” – Chris Bradford, The Way of the Warrior
- “There are two ways to do great mathematics. The first is to be smarter than everybody else. The second way is to be stupider than everybody else — but persistent.” – Raoul Bott
- “If you don’t like how others define & label you, then work on your values. Embrace and practice values that you would like to be associated.” ― Assegid Habtewold, The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For Continued Success in Leadership