Conventional wisdom says, “10,000 hours of deliberate practice will make you world-class.” A recent study from Princeton debunks this theory. I believe this is great news for leaders.
Conventional wisdom says, “10,000 hours of deliberate practice will make you world-class.” A study from Princeton debunks this theory. I believe this is great news for leaders.
If you do the math, you’ll probably decide you don’t have 10,000 hours available to devote to deliberate practice, yet you still want to excel. Is it possible to succeed without a lifetime of practice? Yes!
For the record, I still believe practice and preparation are invaluable. However, it is not the secret ingredient some have promised. Frans Johansson explains the concept of 10,000 hours only works its magic if the structure of your chosen field is relatively stable – think tennis, classical music, even chess; the rules don’t change. Certainly, the world we face as leaders is anything but static.
So, if we can’t just slog away for 10,000 hours and expect to win, what do we need to succeed?
Here’s a short list to get you started…
1. A Desire to Serve – Why do you lead? What motivates you to endure the challenges and difficulty inherent in the role? If you are leading because of what you will get, any success you do achieve will be a house of cards. It can be gone in a moment. My recommendation: Find a cause, or a group, a team or an organization you want to serve – invest your leadership energy there and be prepared for new levels of engagement, passion and performance.
2. The Capacity to Grow – Because the world we lead in is constantly in flux and the world’s knowledge is now doubling every 12 months, leaders who can’t grow are doomed to mediocrity or outright failure. Learning for leaders cannot be extracurricular, it must be at the core of our role. We must forever be learning about our people, our industry, our competition and our world. And, we must always be learning to lead.
3. The Ability to Build a Team – To do great, enduring things, a team is almost always required. Think about the greatest feats of human endeavor: the first flight, men on the moon, summiting Mount Everest, even the painting of the Sistine Chapel – all were team efforts. Leaders in our world who desire to make a difference that will outlast them, will rarely be able to do it alone. He or she will likely need to build an amazing team.
4. The Ability to Make Tough Decisions – I often wonder what the planet would be like if leaders were willing to make more hard calls. I am convinced our schools, churches, governments, businesses and even our homes would thrive if leaders would step up. Are there any real success stories without hard choices? Success requires tough calls. What hard decision do you need to make to turbo-charge your success?
5. The Courage to Take Risks – Risk and reward travel side by side; avoid either one and you will miss them both. Virtually every decision a leader makes requires some risk. Often imperceptible, risk for a leader is ever present. Even if nothing more than the opportunity cost associated with the action we choose not to take. How strong is your risk quotient? You may need to turn it up.
A friend of mine has cautioned me on more than one occasion about the delusion of a Guaranteed Success Plan (his term, not mine). I agree; there are no guarantees. However, there are no short cuts either – not even 10,000 hours will substitute for showing up every day and doing the hard work of leadership.
Enjoy the journey!
Learning for leaders cannot be extracurricular, it must be at the core of our role.