I recently heard an AFL footballer talk about developing as a player.  He said that the first 50 games are spent learning about how the game is played at the highest level and the next 50 games were spent learning how to play the game.  It’s about learning the rules, the techniques, the skills and the theories compared to “reading the play”, knowing where to be, melding with the playing styles of team mates and the ability to create that “spark” that wins games.  This is when intuition kicks in and the player learns the nuances of the game, they understand when to be conventional, when to be unconventional, when to stick to the game plan, and when to ignore it.  It’s a joy to watch players who take their game to that next level.

The same principals apply to leadership.  Early on the journey we learn about business models, management theories, leadership styles and we start to apply them to our work settings.  The challenge is not to get stuck at the that level.  I’ve met leaders who have read one book or learnt one model of leadership and they’re still applying that framework to every situation they encounter.  It limits them and the people who work for them.

How do you move towards the next level in your leadership journey?

  • Recognise that you have a lot to learn.  Humility opens the door to growth. 
  • Read.  There’s a saying that “Leaders are readers”.  Reading will keep you fresh and provide you the opportunity to reflect on your practice.
  • Get a coach or mentor.  Having someone with more experience will allow you the opportunity to broaden your thinking and help you step back and look at the big picture.
  • Enrol in further study.  Find a course, seminar, conference or workshop that will stretch your thinking.  You’ll not only learn more, but you’ll be connected with other people who will motivate you to be better leaders.