Becoming a stronger, more effective leader takes time. John Maxwell’s third law of leadership, the Law of Process, states that leadership evolves daily, not in a day. As a leadership coach, speaker and trainer, it is a privilege to interact with hundreds of organizational leaders each year. There are many who believe that because they attend a conference, read a book, or participate in one of our leadership calls that they are now a leader. Successful leaders are indeed learners but the learning process is ongoing – a result of self-discipline and perseverance. As said by John Maxwell, “Microwave leaders do not have any staying power. Leadership is more of a crock-pot proposition. It takes time, but the end product is worth the wait.” If you continually invest in your leadership development, there will be inevitable growth over time.
Confidence is Preparation
There is an old saying, “Champions don’t become champions in the ring – they are merely recognized there.” If you want to see where someone becomes a champion, look at his or her daily routine. Even a person with natural talent and ability has to practice. Our principals enrolled in our leadership development program (Regional Principal Consortium) observed these practices while visiting Henderson Collegiate Charter School in Vance County, NC. One principal returned to our training session to share that she observed a teacher teaching to an empty classroom with extreme passion and intentionality. The founder, Eric Sanchez, smiled at her comment and said, “Yes, you will see that quite often here.” This intentionality and understanding of the “Law of Process” is certainly one of the main reasons Henderson Collegiate has exceeded academic growth for five consecutive years and is recognized as one of the highest performing Title I schools in North Carolina.
As a former collegiate baseball player and high school coach, this makes complete sense. Every day, we practiced the fundamentals of baseball repeatedly at an intense level. We specifically put players in high stress situations so that they would know what to do when the time came. We believed that you would not be able to just to turn it on when it came to game time.
When I was a principal, the instructional method of elementary school was direct instruction. Our elementary teachers had coaches and practiced their ability to lead the students. Having a consistent cadence and rhythm was critical to ensuring a high level of engagement. However, in the middle school, we did not have such clarity in our education plan and instructional methods.
Understanding Changes Minds; Changing Your Mind, Changes Action
While coaching a principal, I followed up each question regarding the improvement of her teachers with the question, “During which part of the training will they be practicing that skill? How often will they practice and who will give them feedback?”
Implement practice in various aspects of your life. If you are responsible for sales, practice your pitch. Professional speakers practice for hundreds of hours to hone an eight-minute talk. Comedians practice and test their material in the most random clubs for months in order to be prepared for that one 45-minute set.
When is the last time you set aside practice time to help you get better at something that is important to you?
As a leadership development organization, we lead mastermind book studies and trainings for leadership teams. I love watching the team grow through these five phases of learning:
Phase 1: I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know – Few individuals think of themselves as leaders. As long as a person does not realize the importance of leadership in overall success, he is not going to intentionally grow.
Phase 2: I Know that I Need to Know – At some point, we will become aware that we need to learn how to lead if we want to improve our lives. I call this phase “Failing Forward”.
Phase 3: I Know What I Don’t Know – If we do not improve at leadership, our careers will eventually get bogged down. During this phase, you develop a plan for personal growth in those areas where you need improvement.
Phase 4: I Know and Grow and It Starts to Show – When you recognize where your skills are lacking and you begin the daily discipline of personal growth, exciting things start to happen. You start becoming an effective leader; however, you have to think about every move you make.
Phase 5: I Simply Go Because of What I Know – Your ability to lead becomes almost automatic. You develop great instincts which result in incredible payoffs; however, the only way to get there is to obey the “Law of Process” and pay the price through hours of hard work and sacrifice.
Grow as a Leader
It is your capacity to develop and improve your skills that will distinguish you from your followers. Journal your responses to the following three questions and set a plan to grow 1% each week for the next year. Even if you take a two-week vacation, you will be 50% better than you started.
- Think about where you were a year ago today. What was most responsible for your growth as a leader? Set a plan to double that time weekly.
- Look at your daily agenda. What are you intentionally doing today to get better tomorrow? Eliminate anything on the calendar that does not take you to your goal.
- What is your team doing in order to become better leaders? Begin investing in your team each week by sharing what you are learning.
This blog was written by Dr. Thomas Miller, transformational coach and strategic thinking partner for Leaders Building Leaders. To schedule a complimentary discovery call with Tom, click this link. Your discovery call will consist of questions like:
- What challenges are you or the organization currently facing?
- What keeps you up at night worrying?
- What challenges and obstacles do they foresee over the next 6-12 months that may test the team’s weak points? What is it that they personal struggle at in meeting this challenge?
- What would their organization look/feel like operating at its optimum level?What does personal success look like to you?