The more I teach and coach leadership and entrepreneurship, the more I see them as sets of behavioral skills anyone can learn. Behaving in certain ways results in people choosing to follow you. Behave otherwise and they won’t. There’s no magic to it. The question isn’t if you can behave like effective leaders do. The question is if you choose to learn and if you find effective learning technique.
Your behavior is backed up by beliefs, experience, skills, and so on, but ultimately you transmit all those other things through your behavior. Other people can’t sense your thoughts or see your past. They only see your behavior, including what you communicate, the same as any other set of behavioral skills.
Many other sets of behavioral skills exist. We call them practices or disciplines because you have to practice them to develop and keep your skills and they take discipline to learn and practice. Examples include playing musical instruments, singing, sports, acting, and so on. No one listens to a great piano player and imagines they were just born that way. We know they practiced a lot. So learning to lead takes time and discipline to practice. That takes time and discipline, but you can do it.
Here’s a table of common starting exercises for several disciplines. Playing a c-major scale may feel repetitive and robotic—the opposite of artistically expressing yourself—but I’d bet nearly everyone who played piano on the stage of Carnegie Hall learned it as one of their first lessons.
|Discipline||Common starting exercises|
|Piano||C-major scale, learning about the physical piano|
|Tennis||How to grip the racket, hitting forehands|
|Basketball||John Wooden started first practices, even with students who were the best high school players in the country, with putting on socks|
|Saxophone||What the parts are, how to put them together, how to hold it, where to put your hands|
|Voice lessons||When I took voice lessons during acting school, we did breathing exercises for weeks before working on our voices|
|Acting||Repetition, at least in the Meisner Technique classes I took|
You get the idea. The starting exercises are always qualitatively more simple and basic than the discipline you learn through them.
If you want to learn to lead, start with simple exercise like the above. Of course, the teaching of leadership is a younger field than the teaching of most of those disciplines, so it hasn’t developed comparable practices. Actually, I’ve started to in my coaching and teaching, which I plan to make into online courses. Stay tuned! Or contact me.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book