January 30, 2009

Can you develop leadership?

Leadership skills. What does that make you think of? Last Monday, Mitch Allegre told a group of about forty professionals about the "Ecology of Leadership." We were gathered at the Leadership In Action's Dialog Series event at AAA of Western NY. His often humorous presentations tell it like it is. He referenced the stereotypical corporate "leadership development" events that we've all been subject to. Mitch likened it to someone being taught how to play tennis by practicing their swing indoors, learning the correct position for forehand and backhand. Maybe even hit the ball against the wall. Then, the lesson is over and it's back to work. Get out there and play championship tennis. We just taught you all you need to know.

But wait... there's someone on the other side of the net now! Hey! They're hitting a ball at me! I didn't practice this! What do I do?

The standard approach of academic training lessons on leadership fail. It's all good information, don't get me wrong. But how does it all come together? Only with practice. In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell talks about the "10,000 Hour Rule." Whether you are the Beatles, Mozart, or a championship tennis player, practice truly does make perfect.

So how do we apply this to "leadership skills?" Practice. Meet with your peers. Learn from their successes, and more importantly, their failures. Find a mentor. And mentor someone else.

Leadership In Action is a group started for this very reason. We wanted to not only provide access to leadership development skills, but also spend time interacting with other leaders in your peer group. That interaction is how we learn. Experience is the key... it's how we learn. Let's get all we can. Visit the website for more details about how you can be a part of it.

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