If one were to open a box labeled “what it takes to be a great leader” and look inside we’d find it only takes three top level skills.
- The ability to clearly establish the Vision.
- The ability to consistently create the Culture.
- The ability to constantly intercept Entropy.
These skills of course, apply to the organization the leader is directing, but they also are very applicable to self management.
Let’s talk about Entropy as it relates to your personal growth.
Specifically, let’s examine education as it applies to your own personal growth objectives. Think about a continuum with the entropy at one end and continual improvement at the other. In the center that continuum would be, “a perpetual student”.
The overall objective of education is, of course, to position yourself for continuous improvement in your own personal skill set. Far too many people expose themselves to educational materials and classes, but fail to actually apply the new knowledge.
A case in point.
Imagine a sporting competition involving a series of lumberjack skills. These skills include using axes, saws and other “strength oriented tools”. In the end the competition came down to two finalists.
One of them was a small, wiry and fiery young woman. The other was a gigantic, bombastic giant of a man.
As you might expect in the early going of the contest the monstrous man took a huge early lead. Strangely, even though she was far behind, the young woman took hourly 10 minute breaks. At noon, she took a full hour off versus her opponent’s single 10 minute break.
Towards the end of the day when the shadows began to lengthen, she began to close the gap. And then she eventually took the lead. As the time limit for the contest began to approach, her lead became insurmountable and she won.
Everyone attributed her success to the frequent rest breaks she was taking throughout the day. But, when they asked her about it, she said,
“Oh, I wasn’t resting I was sharpening my tools”
Keeping sharp is essential.
Every leader should be able to recognize the parallels between themselves and the two participants.
Time and time again on a daily basis you see the hardest working and the most skilled individuals not finishing on top. You see the manger coming in on weekends and staying late but not keeping up with other managers in the company. You’ll see business owners who insist on doing everything in their business while wondering why they’re not the ones whose business is at the top in their industry.
The applicable lessons.
- Number one, leadership is a complex undertaking and it includes a variety of skills including the big ones we’ve listed at the top of the article. They all need to be constantly updated, refined and learned. Think about these as the educational opportunities widely available to leaders and managers.
- Number two, regardless of how much applicable educational opportunities are taken, they are worthless unless put into action in the workplace. Investing time and treasure in unused education is truly a major waste for everybody.
- Number three, be constantly in touch with your current level of skills as it relates to the requirements of the job and the responsibility. Having a direct correlation is key. Remember, the best accountant does not make the best CFO.
- Number four, take those “10 minute breaks” to constantly “sharpen your tools” versus simply working harder.
Make a practice to continuously assess your own skills and your own situation relative to your profession. See if you have a gap between what is needed and what you have. Close the gap with adequate education, mentoring and coaching to be the best you can possibly be in the job you have. Then, continually ask yourself if you are applying what you are learning and not just learning.