Leadership. It's complicated. If you Google' books on leadership', you will see around 1.5 billion results. Amazon will connect you to 60,000 books on leadership. People have been 'practicing' leadership since the dawn of time, or some may say since the Garden of Eden.
With all these resources and years of practice, we should be proficient leaders by now. Yet, surveys tell us that millions of people experiencing our "proficiency" are not feeling sufficiently led. So, what's up? Why does our skill show well in many areas of business and society, yet important, critical capabilities like leadership often falter and struggle?
I believe the problem is three-fold:
First, we often treat leadership as an add-on to a full-time job. Second, we struggle to measure leadership performance well. Third, we find it challenging to be clear and specific about requirements to achieve levels of leadership in our organizations.
Recently, I read Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, which shed helpful light on the problem, challenge, and solutions. Mr. Colvin is Fortune's senior editor-at-large and has written hundreds of articles for the magazine. Colvin's book is replete with valuable concepts, illustrations, and practical advice, and I highly recommend adding it to your reading list.
One of Colvin's concepts is apropos: As humans, when we see another person masterfully performing in some area of life, we attribute their success to good fortune, natural talent, and/or gifting. However, beyond the rare exception, it is a disciplined, strategic, relentless practice that yields the expertise we admire. Colvin terms this 'deliberate practice' with this definition:
"Several elements, each worth examining, characterize deliberate practice. It is an activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher's help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; it's highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual, such as chess or business-related activities, or heavily physical, such as sports; and it isn't much fun."
So, to be masterful leaders, we need visibility into the gap between where we are and where we could be. If we are worth our salt, we do what we know to do, right? This improvement potential is unknown to us, where the 'teacher' comes in. We all benefit from a perspective outside of ourselves that cares about our growth, knows what we could be, and speaks truth to us.
Leadership can be lonely with few natural feedback loops to illuminate and encourage our journey to mastery.
Join a mastermind community like Acumen, find a coach, or empower a circle of accountability partners to help light up the path ahead.
Treat yourself with the same leadership guidance you give your direct reports – design deliberate practices that yield leadership mastery and watch the community (or people) and business around you flourish.
July 21, 2022