3 Reasons it’s hard to learn leadership

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Leadership isn’t easy. It involves people and constantly changing situations. Learning to lead is hard, too Most new leaders take a year or two just to learn the basics. Then they spend another decade mastering the craft and the rest of their lives getting better. Here are three reasons it’s hard to learn to lead.

Learning to lead is hard because you can’t learn it from books

Leadership isn’t a subject like history or math. Leadership is more like swimming or dancing. It’s a doing discipline, where the learning and doing intertwine.

That means you won’t be able to plan the error out of your performance. You and the people around you will make mistakes, right there in public.

Embrace that if you want to learn to lead. Recognize that your most important learning and most rapid growth will often come from the most difficult situations.

Learning to lead is hard because a lot of what great leaders do doesn’t look like “Leadership”

All those romantic stories about great leaders and great leadership feats obscure an important fact. What most great leaders most of the time do isn’t heroic.

Great leaders know it’s much more effective to prevent a crisis than it is to rush to the rescue. That’s why great leaders show up a lot and have lots of conversations with people. They set clear expectations and a high bar for performance. Then leaders communicate with unremitting diligence and religiously model the behavior they expect.

Learning to lead is hard because it’s mostly about making yourself worth following

Make yourself worth following if you want to be a great leader. Get feedback on how you’re doing. Reflect on your performance and how you can improve next time

Read books and go to classes to get ideas of things to try. Then try them, analyze how you did, and keep improving. If you want to be a great leader, you can’t take a day off, either. Learning to lead is a lifelong race with no finish line.

Bottom Line

Learning to lead is hard. You can’t learn to lead from books, you can only learn to lead by leading and that means making mistakes. You must forget the romantic ideas of heroic leadership and learn the mundane tasks great leaders do every day. If you aspire to great leadership, you must strive every day to make yourself worthy to be followed.

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What People Are Saying

rita   |   13 Nov 2018   |   Reply

good quick article

Wally Bock   |   13 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Thanks, Rita

Linda Folsom   |   13 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Learning more and more about how to become a great leader.


Wally Bock   |   13 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Glad you liked it, Linda

Renato Zane   |   13 Nov 2018   |   Reply

You are so right about real leadership being something non-heroic most of the time. An effective leader focuses on serving the group. At the same time, leadership requires looking at the horizon and thinking about what direction to move in. Thanks for making the point so effectively that learning to lead is an important habit, a never-ending Process with a capital “p”, with great benefits for those who commit to it.

Wally Bock   |   13 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Thanks for the kind words, Renato. I really like “never-ending Process with a capital ‘P'”

Janie Johnson   |   13 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Thank you for sharing!

Tony   |   13 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Very interesting point of view, often time I think about leadership as someone who understands the needs of the people, their struggles and their success as well. That is a reflection on the personal performance of a good leader, and as a ongoing process of leadership. To accept the fact that we do mistakes and learn from them will only make a leader better than before.

Wally Bock   |   14 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Thanks for adding to te conversation, Tony

Victor   |   14 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Hi Wally,
As Baltasar Gracian said “The good thing if brief twice good”.
Great post.
May I have your permission to translate into Spanish?

Wally Bock   |   15 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Yes, as long as you shre the entire post and include a link to this blog.

Lorraine Lewis   |   16 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Great read, i think if you lead by example is a great way to start. It augers well for both leadership ad employees in the whole scheme of things. Keeps the leader up to date with current trends and allows the employess to have a sense of belonging when leaders work side by side with them and with obvious communication inclusion.

Wally Bock   |   16 Nov 2018   |   Reply

Thanks for adding to the conversation, Lorraine