Practice 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?