Leadership Development: Do You Practice?

Luciano Pavarotti was quoted as saying, “If I don’t practice a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it.” Judging from Mr. Pavarotti’s career, it is evident to me that he may have never missed a day of practice. In the business world we are measured by our performance much like a world class operatic tenor, such as Pavarotti, is measured by his fans. It takes relentless dedication and practice to be the best at one’s craft. Successful people aren’t born with talent; they work to improve their skills and competencies by practicing on the job each day.  

A frequently asked question in business coaching is, “How do I practice business acumen?” Many areas of business, in fact, are directly practical; presenting, negotiating, delivering evaluations, deciphering financial statements, etc – and we can practice them all. Still, these skills are not the true essence of leadership success and performance. The great leaders are masters at communication and relationship management in critical environments…while under pressure. It takes communication and relationship management skills, along with critical thinking, for one to navigate through the treacherous waters of leadership. In order for a person to hone their soft skills, they must practice and welcome feedback. Feedback is crucial, and getting it should be no problem in business. The problem is people do not always seek it. We find that they wait for it, avoid it or hope it will never come. Without guidance, we are traveling without a roadmap. To be a successful leader, one must have guidance and the opportunity to experience wins along the way.

The process of designing a map starts with outlining the definition of success: for the organization, department and individual. Then define the concrete values that support and shape those business ideas. Lastly identify an area to develop, create an action plan, and begin to practice it.

The key elements in an action plan are (for example):

  • Your Goal - Communicate more effectively (to groups, individuals, leaders, etc.). 
  • Desired Outcomes - As a result of working this plan, what new outcomes will be achieved?
  • Action Steps - These should include the training and education opportunities you will complete to hone your skills in this particular area.
  • Target Dates - The dates you will begin each action step and the dates you expect to complete them.
  • Progress Indicators - Observable changes that will tell you that you are making progress toward your goal as a result of completing the action steps.
  • Barriers - Anticipate what things may hinder your ability to complete the action step and develop a strategy to overcome them.

It takes effort from the individual and their leadership team to communicate effectively and to build a culture of feedback and development. Yes, it takes practice and a commitment to change but the benefits are endless. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers”, he argues that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something to become an expert. With this said - where are you in the process? 

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  1. Travis Jones's avatar
    Travis Jones
    | Permalink
    If you want to learn about leadership development - read and study about leadership everyday.
    People are not born leaders, they are born babies.
    If someone desires to be a leader, it takes time and practice. Gladwells book says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. That is 250 weeks of learning at 40 hours a week. If your older workers are not yet leaders, challenge them to do some self examination and then follow your suggested action plan above

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