Ouch. There are few memories quite so painful – literally – than remembering the squeaks and squawks, bleats and brays endured by the rest of the family while Simon was first learning to play his beloved saxophone.
That first school band concert has become a legendary family story – when poor Simon struggled so hard to make musical sounds come from an instrument that was nearly as big as him. The sax won the battle, that time. But not forever.
We don’t think of playing an instrument as a skill that comes naturally. It has to be learned. Lesson books and videos can help to an extent, but in order to really learn to play music, we have to do it.
Practice it. Learn from others. Practice more.
It’s true for leadership, as well. Few people are born leaders; they’ve learned how to be leaders. Practiced. Learned from others. Practiced more.
Some of the learning came about through the School of Hard Knocks. Some came from great mentors and models, ranging from parents to presidents. Leadership workshops and training seminars have boosted some leaders as well.
But we don’t fully learn leadership by learning about leadership. Like Simon learning to play the sax, we learn leadership best by doing leadership.
Practicing it. Learning from others. Practicing more.
Here’s what practicing and learning leadership might look like:
- Taking on challenging new tasks.
- Putting ourselves into situations that will stretch us.
- Stepping up when a leadership role needs to be filled.
- Watching and analyzing leaders we admire: How do they make decisions? How do they talk to others? How do they turn vision into reality?
Leadership learning is a lifelong thing. It’s not something we learn once and then know forever. New situations, new challenges will always require new leadership approaches. And new thinkers will continue to come up with new models and insights about how leadership happens.
In The Leader’s Lifelong Learner’s Permit, Sangeeth Varghese says that great leaders keep learning in three ways:
- They learn constantly. Every day, all day, they’re collecting and digesting information that could be helpful to them as leaders.
- They learn continuously. They commit the time that’s needed to focus in and closely attend to what needs to be learned.
- They learn cyclically. The cycle of learning keeps going and going – there’s always more to learn.
Like Simon with his saxophone, the practicing and learning do make a difference – and they keep making a difference over time. The music gets better and better, and there’s always more to learn.