Practicing Leadership

PracticingPractice makes perfect, right? Well, at least so we are told. I’m not sure about perfection, but usually, practice does lead to improvement. Think about skills you’ve practiced in your life. What were the results?

When I was younger, I took German in high school. We had to practice vocabulary nearly every day. As our class progressed, we practiced conversational German. We practiced writing in German. When my German relatives came to visit us here in the U.S., I was able to carry on a conversation with them. That certainly was the result of my practice. I’m not sure how one could learn a foreign language without practicing.

Think of athletes. Regardless of the sport, they practice. Sometimes they practice a specific skill or a specific play. Sometimes it is repeated stretching, sprinting, or shooting foul shots over and over. If they never practiced, they wouldn’t play well. The more they practice, the better the odds of competing well in their sport.

Shouldn’t we feel the same passion for practicing leadership? It is a skill that can only improve with practice. What can we do to develop the habit of good practice for improved leadership? How can we keep our skills in peak form? How can we stay at the top of our game? How can we run the long race?

George Ambler wrote that “a leader needs a solid leadership philosophy, supported by strong beliefs, that guides a leader’s behaviors and actions.” In other words, know what you stand for. Then, live it. Don’t get stuck in theory, the latest trend, and the newest book. What do you stand for?

Do you practice your stand?

In a presentation about communication, Werner Iukish included a slide that says, “Inspiring isn’t an option, it’s a necessity and it has to be all the time.” We can not march into the office and inspire every once in a while when so moved. No, a leader develops the practice of inspiration by being aware of the impact of words and actions and using both wisely.

The point is, leadership isn’t something you just wake up to one day. It is a skill which, like all skills, needs practice to be done well.

You can’t just read a book once and be a leader. You need to read, reread, and read some more. You can’t just go to one seminar and be a leader. You need ongoing training and development, and then even a little more. You can’t just have one conversation with your staff and be a leader. You need ongoing, two way dialogue, and be sure to listen.

How do you practice leadership? What has worked well for you?

L2L Contributing Author


  1. Ken Jacobs on January 5, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Your post was an important reminder that great leadership absolutely takes practice…and highly developed listening skills.

    Being a great listener is one of the points I raise in an article I wrote entitled “From Manager to Leader” for the Public Relations Society of America’s “Public Relations Strategist.” I’ve taken the liberty of attaching the link:

    Ken Jacobs [email protected]

  2. elbiddulph on January 8, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Ken, thank you for reading L2L and for leaving a comment on my post. I followed the link and read your insightful article. I especially like the line, “Leaders wake up every morning wondering, “What comes after what comes next?” ” Thank you for sharing it with me, and with our readers. El

  3. Ken Jacobs on January 12, 2009 at 10:51 am

    El: To give credit where it’s due, I believe that was a quote from Joel Curran, SVP/Midwest Regional Director for PR firm Manning, Selvage & Lee…a real leader in our industry, and he hit the nail on the head.