Practice Makes Perfect (A Lesson in Leadership)A number of years ago, I grew frustrated trying to find a reliable goalie for my hockey team. I solved the problem by purchasing a full set of goalie equipment and at the age of 40, began to learn the art of goaltending. I read books, asked questions of colleagues and began to sit directly behind the net when I attended games to observe the well trained goalies and learn from them. All of this was helpful, but I was still a hopeless goalie. It would take many years of practice and game experience before I would reach a point of competence.
Every rink I played in was different, and presented unique challenges. Each team I played for offered different levels of support, and each team I played against, different levels of challenge. I had to learn how to deal with success and failure, as each brings a different type of learning. And ultimately, I needed to create my own unique style based on the gifts and limitations that were God-given.
Leadership is exactly the same. Knowledge, advice and observation are all necessary elements on your journey. This only gives you the base to begin growing. Each situation you encounter will be unique. Each team you participate on, or lead, will have specific strengths and challenges. Each success and failure will cause you to pause, reflect and adjust. And ultimately, you will need to “find your voice” (Kouzes and Posner from The Leadership Challenge) or your own style that fits your personality and surroundings.
The next time you read a leadership book, attend a course or encounter a challenge, be sure to take the time to reflect on the situation and make application. To do this, ask yourself “What is one thing that I will do differently starting today?” Write it down somewhere such that it will come to your attention in 30 days, and when that happens, honestly ask yourself how well you have practiced that trait. Practice may not make perfect, but it is the only way to grow and develop as a leader.
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