The world is full of mediocre leaders, and I am one of them.
But I don’t want to be mediocre, and I don’t believe I’m condemned to a life sentence of mediocrity. Most of all, if I have any compassion on those I lead, on those subjected to my middling skills, I have to get better.
In Part 1 of this article, I talked about how odd it is that we practice our leadership skills on those we lead. Unlike other high-skill professions (surgeons, speakers, pilots, musicians, etc.) that are practiced off-line, our expectations of our leaders are apparently so low that we allow them to practice while performing.
Is an Effective Leader Simply a Well-Practiced Leader?
Before I get completely hung up on the idea that a significant quantity of deliberate practice is all that’s required to make me an awesome leader, I am forced to consider that there is much debate around Ericsson’s work. The debate doesn’t challenge the value of deliberate practice, or even the 10,000-hour marker. Rather, it suggests that inherent, non-trainable traits differentiate the best from the rest – such as height and bone structure in sports.
This debate makes sense to me, and completely I agree that effective leadership requires more than just deliberate practice. However, unlike height and bone structure, the traits that differentiate the best leaders from average leaders ARE trainable. In my experience, these differentiators are a leader’s principles – the leader’s beliefs about herself, about others, and about how things operate in world at large.
Much has been published regarding leadership principles by Ray Dalio, John Maxwell, Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni, Brené Brown and many others. Desiring to improve their “leadership game”, many leaders (including me) voraciously consume this literature. We learn from, and are second-hand mentored by, these strongly-principled leaders, and we slowly change our bone structure – our differentiating traits.
Principled and Practiced
But, to be effective, a leader must be both principled and practiced. And while I’m very much looking forward to my next shipment of principle-focused books from Amazon, I just can’t help but be disappointed with my lack of attention to deliberate practice.
To create opportunities for deliberate practice of leadership skills, LevellingUp was formed. At Levelling Up, we help growing leaders quickly become exceptional leaders by connecting them with expert mentors & coaches.
Visit us at www.LevellingUp.ca.
The experts you want. The skills you need.