The world is full of mediocre leaders, and I am one of them.
But I don’t want to be a mediocre leader, 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.
The below is the third in a trilogy of articles. To understand how we got to this point you’ll want to start here.
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 be disappointed with my lack of attention to deliberate practice.
Where do I go from here? I guess I’m in pursuit of opportunities for deliberate practice of my leadership skills. I think this is going to be a very interesting journey – breaking down “leadership” into its constituent elements, and then deliberately practicing each element. Using objective data to find out where I’m weak, and then slowly hammering away at those weaknesses until I’ve bridged the chasm between knowledge and mastery!