Saturday, July 13, 2013

Are You Ready for Leadership Development

From Dan Rockwell @Leadershipfreak (well actually from his wife via his blog)..."People who already know can't be taught."  The whole blog piece is hilarious but I wanted to focus a bit on the serious side of the message.

Let's start with the big question I hear so often.  "Are leaders made or taught?"  My opinion is that some people have an innate understanding of leadership concepts in the way that some people have an innate understand of how to throw a baseball or play a guitar.  It is easier for them to learn and master but they still have to practice if they want to make it to the big time.  For the rest of the world, there are thousands of models, books, courses, blogs, podcasts, etc. (if not millions by now) to help them learn what the others seem to innately know.  But it is like going to a piano lesson, if you don't go home after the lesson and practice, you might as well not go at all.

In other words, true leaders master their craft through a lifetime of learning, practice, and reflection.

The next question I hear repeatedly is "There are so many books, models, and classes out there, where do I start?"  This is where self-awareness and reflection come in.

How do you learn best?  Reading or hearing?  If by reading, pick up a book.  If by hearing, pick out an audiobook or attend a class.

The most important thing, however, is to reflect on WHY you picked that method, what you learned, how you tried to incorporate it, what worked/what didn't, and what you will try next time.  I recommend using a daily leadership journal for this.

Now you have to pick a model or process that fits your values, style, and process.  If you make a huge jump to something that doesn't make sense to you or fit with your style it will never last (just like working out).  Pick something that fits you.

The hardest part of all leadership, however, is self-awareness.  If you hear a best practice in a class and automatically say "I already do that" it is time to check yourself.  I have spent five years studying leadership and I hear new things daily.  I also catch myself doing something against everything I know daily.  We are human.  Part of the learning process is recognizing when you are operating at your best and when you are not because no one operates at their best every moment of every day.

If you think you don't need leadership training you probably have a very low realization of how others view you.  I have met people that I do not think need leadership training and they are the first people to tell me what they learned from a presentation and how they will incorporate it.  Reading books and going to lectures will not in and of itself make you a better leader.  For every hour you spend reading or  in training you should spend 7-10 hours practicing, incorporating, and reflecting on the process.  If you are not doing this, you will not get a return on your investment in the training.