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What’s leadership mastery?

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Malcolm Gladwell is one of the most compelling speakers I’ve paid good money to listen to.  We trooped off into London to hear him talk about his then latest book ‘Outliers’.

Good for him – he didn’t just recite extracts from the book, which uses the early career of the Beatles, or Bill Gates, to make his points.  He took me back to my childhood and the career of a band with many incarnations – Fleetwood Mac.

The key message I took from that talk was the importance of practice.  Gladwell’s message is that it takes10,000 hours to achieve mastery.

That’s 417 days. 1.14 years.  Just practising whatever it is you want to master.  We spent time with a committed musician just this last week.  Her orchestra is delivering a Wagner concert tomorrow night.

What she told me is how her commitment to regular practice helps her achieve in so many areas.  It’s not just about the joy of playing in front of an audience.  It’s about the sound.  And the harmonies.

Let’s re-calculate.  10000 hours divided by the working day – let’s say 8.  That’s 1250 days.  Take off weekends.  Take out holidays.  That’s five years as a leader to get to master leadership.

Here in the UK, the average time in post for a CEO has dropped from around 3 years to 18 months.  And we expect these talented, educated people to master their role in that time?

The great Manchester United Football Club Manager, Sir Alex Ferguson has just resigned.  After 23 years.  At one point, he was one game away from being sacked.  Fortunately for the Club (and for him) that game was won and he kept his contract.  The rest, as they say, is history.

But of course you’ll tell me that your working week isn’t just about leadership.  It’s about those forms.  Those budgets.  Those deadlines.  When do you have time for mastering leadership?

The only tip I’m going to give in this blog is – create time and work on your leadership 

Carve it out.  Take charge.  Invest in yourself.

  • Push back the demands others place on you
  • Make sure you’ve got thinking time; walking around time and chatting time
  • Build some learning and development time into your routine
  • Give yourself enough ‘me time’ and family time
  • Get exercise and practice relaxation

All these things support your mastery in leadership.  Feel free to drop me a line and let me know how you’re getting on.


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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