Leadership is not a one-time event, it's an ongoing process of growing, evolving and developing. One of the fundamental truths in The Truth About Leadership: "The Best Leaders are the Best Learners." We believe that we (and others) can learn to lead, and that we can become better leaders tomorrow, than we are today.
This statement seems fairly straightforward; and may be easier said than done. Many leadership development facilitators and coaches focus on developing and strengthening the leadership behaviors of others; it can be easy to lose sight of focusing on ourselves and our ongoing leadership learning.
In their Harvard Business Review article, "The Making of an Expert," K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula and Edward T. Cokely say it takes 2.7 hours of practice per day to improve at a skill - whether playing tennis, honing your golf swing or learning keys on the piano. And not just routine practice - the article says "...you will need to invest that time wisely, by engaging in deliberate practice."
We found in our research that those leaders who engage more in learning are more effective as leaders. That is, their constituents see them as more effective. What does this look like?
- They spend more time in learning activities. Literally, they engage in learning by reading, talking with others, experimenting with new ways of doing things or reflecting on their own leadership behaviors.
- They ask more questions.
- They don't assume they know everything.
- They aren't afraid to admit mistakes.
- They ask for feedback, and when they get it they say "thank you" and accept it as a gift by taking it seriously, whether the feedback is positive or negative.
- They encourage others to experiment, take risks and accept failure by asking "What can we learn?"
How do you fit 2.7 hours of deliberate practice on your leadership skills every day? It's likely we do many of these learning activities already, yet we don't transfer learning from the activity into deliberate practice on leadership.
We invite and encourage you to invest in your leadership learning. Join us at The Leadership Challenge Forum, July 28-29 in Chicago, where we will explore "The Anatomy of a Leader."
Joining us as speakers will be Steven J. Stein on emotional intelligence, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi on the whole brain advantage, and The Chicago Comedy Company on creativity. In addition to learning from the line-up of speakers, you will learn by engaging in experiential activities with fellow members in The Leadership Challenge community. Take advantage of early-bird registration rates through April 30.
In what ways are you learning to lead? What activities do you do regularly to deliberately practice and improve your leadership skills?