Turning the Playing Field into a Practice Field

At HR.com’s recent Lead2016 Conference Jim Kouzes reminded great leaders of the critical importance of their personal responsibility and commitment to self-development. In the sport world, he said, athletes all know that to maintain their basic level of performance, a certain number of hours of daily exercise is required. They also know that to achieve and sustain a superior level of performance requires a greater number of hours, a greater commitment if they are to achieve the extraordinary.

To sustain and grow their leadership skills, he said, great leaders also need to exercise their leadership muscles. Ask a busy executive, however, to spend two hours daily and the response will most likely be: “My schedule doesn’t allow it.” His suggestion to them is to find ways to turn the playing field into a practice field.  How do leaders do this? Throughout the day, they pause briefly before beginning each task or event and ask: “What leadership skills, talents or knowledge will I put to use during this time? What challenges are here that will stretch me? How will this opportunity grow me?

Great leaders don’t settle for just maintaining their greatness. It is always about pushing their limits, stretching for the extraordinary. As the New Balance commercial tells us: “Happiness is pushing your limits and watching them back down.” On your magnificent journey remember always the words of Zig Ziglar: “When you are tough on yourself, life is going to be infinitely easier on you.” PUSH – Persist Until Something Happens! Be extraordinary. Be more than you ever dreamed you could be!

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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One Response to Turning the Playing Field into a Practice Field

  1. Jack Beach says:

    I was part of the executive leadership development unit at IBM for over 14 years. At the time Louis V. Gerstner, the iconic CEO who led the turnaround of IBM in the 1990s would frequently speak at our programs. He would always start off by telling the assembled executives he knew how busy they were and how important their work was but that their days at this program are the most important days of the year for them.

    He would then relate to them that he was always surprised that when he meets with other CEOs and chief executives, they would often talk about how much time and money they spend on improving their golf game, becoming a gourmet cook, or becoming better at bridge but he never hears them talk about the efforts they put into practicing their leadership; and that he felt even at this stage in his life and career, he had to very consciously and actively practice and try to get better as a leader. He would close by telling them that the next few day they were going to have the opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future and that they should take full advantage of that and continue to practice what they had learned once they got back to their work unit.

    I always tried to impress on these leaders that leadership is not binary. It is not something you either are or are not. It’s a sliding scale and you never fully master it but with effort we can continue to get better. Moreover, leadership is not a steady state. It is not something you get certified on for life, you have to earn it every day.

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