It Takes Practice-Deliberate Practice-to Become a Better Leader

Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner

This probably doesn't come as any surprise to you, but here's the rub. Organizations these days seem to want us to develop leaders in shorter and shorter periods of time. It's all part of the trend of instant success. Well, guess what? It isn't going to happen. There's no such thing as instant leadership—or instant expertise of any kind. There's no fast track to excellence. Those who are the very best at anything got to be that way because they spent more time learning and practicing, not less time learning.

According to the experts on expertise—people like researcher K. Anders Ericsson, Conradi Eminent Scholar at Florida State University—what truly differentiates the expert performers from the good performers is hours of practice. You've got to work at becoming the best, and it sure doesn't happen over a weekend. If you want a rough metric of what it'll take to achieve the highest level of expertise, the estimate is about 10,000 hours of practice over a period of ten years. That's about 2.7 hours a day, every day for ten years. So the next time someone says the organization ought to cut leadership development back to a couple days a year, show them that number and then ask them whether they would rather have professionals or amateurs running the business.

The Leadership Challenge® Workshop is intended to be, in essence, a multi-day practice opportunity. People spend sixteen hours engaged in an intensive, designed learning experience that accesses all styles. There are opportunities to read about and hear presentations on key concepts, chances to actively experiment with the practices, occasions to observe role models, times to reflect on experiences and observations, and places for dialogue with peers. It's this combination of approaches that makes this workshop unique.

But attending a workshop is obviously not all there is to learning to lead. In fact, if learning stops at the classroom door, then we can guarantee that there will be little change in behavior back home. Remember, it takes 2.7 hours of practices per day to become the best, not just those hours in the workshop. There is a process built into The Leadership Challenge® Workshop for continuing the learning back on the job, but it's only a beginning. Leadership development is an ongoing process that must continue if you are to become the best leader you can be. The real change begins when we turn our workplaces into practice fields for leadership.

Excerpted from The Leadership Challenge Workshop Facilitator's Guide, 4th Edition, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.

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