Mastering leadership competencies

It is important for each of us to work toward mastering each Leadership Competency  in order to “lead with excellence”  throughout our “scope-of-concern.”  Since each of us is part of at least one team this means that all of us require leadership competence at the levels of self and team.  In addition, some of us with broader responsibilities also require leadership competence at the levels of enterprise and/or system.

The path of mastery can be facilitate with a growth mindset, deliberate practice aimed at achieving higher and higher levels of expertise, and a process of intentional change.

Growth Mindset

Commitment to this path requires a mindset that prioritizes hard work over natural talent.  Based on decades of research on achievement and success, Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, discovered the groundbreaking power of our mindset.  In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success she distinguishes between the Fixed Mindset and the Growth Mindset.  For many of us our education has promoted  a bias for the fixed mindset.  Yet the most successful people in every field have a growth mindset.

Fixed Mindset: “Intelligence is Static” Growth Mindset: Intelligence can be Developed 
Needs to look smart and: Wants to be genuine and:
  • Avoid challenges
  • Embrace challenges
  • Give up easily due to obstacles
  • Persiste despite obstacles
  • See effort as fruitless
  • See effort as a path to mastery
  • Ignore useful feedback
  • Learn from criticism
  • Be threatened by other’s success
  • Be inspired by others’ success

Deliberate Practice

In his book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Anders Ericsson, an internationally recognized researcher in human performance delineates the role of deliberate practice in developing expert performance.  His research has revolutionized what we know about human achievement. He has found that what separates the best of us from the rest is not innate talent but simply the right kind of training and practice.  The right kind of practice is called deliberate practice and it requires:

  • Well-defined specific goals and a plan for getting there
  • Focus and full attention
  • Feedback
  • Getting out of one’s comfort zone
  • Getting around barriers by trying differently rather than trying harder

Maintaining the focus and effort required by deliberate practice is hard work so you will need to find a way to maintain motivation.  One of the best ways to maintain motivation is to make the pursuit of leadership mastery a group effort.  This can be done effectively in the context of a team or work group when instilled with a culture of learning.

Intentional Change

One of the best ways for structuring your pursuit mastery in leadership dynamics is to use the intentional change process developed by Richard Boyatzis, a professor of Organization Behavior at Case Western Reserve University.  He outlines this approach in his book, Resonant Leadership.

The intentional change process begins by identifying about your:

  • Ideal Self (personal vision based on who you are and what is most important to you)
  • Real Self (including strengths and weaknesses)
  • Learning agenda which builds on strengths and reduces gaps and guides a program of experimentation and deliberate practice

It then includes:

  • Experimenting with new behaviors, thoughts, and feelings
  • Practicing new behaviors (which builds new neural pathways)
  • Developing trusting relationships that help support and encourage each step in the process.

Getting Started

Your first step is to ensure that you have a growth mindset.  Unfortunately, most of us, particularly high performers, have learned the fixed mindset.  If the fixed mindset is your habit then you will need to begin by cultivating a growth mindset.  The place to start is with the book, Mindset, introduced above.

Your next step is to identify at least one leadership skill to work on.  From here you need to design your program of deliberate practice and intentional change.

Posted by David Sherman

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