Leadership Lessons from the Velveteen Rabbit

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Sometimes, at the end of the day when I’m reading for pleasure and relaxation, I read children’s books. One of my favorites is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The other night, as I was reading it, it occurred to me that this is more than a book about love and growing up. It’s also about what happens to a boss as he or she becomes better and better and then good and then great.

Early in the book, the Skin Horse, the oldest and wisest toy in the nursery, explains the process of becoming real to the new Velveteen Rabbit. Here are some of the Skin Horse’s lessons, adapted to the work of being a boss.

It Isn’t About How You’re Made, It’s Something That Happens to You

There was a time when we thought that people sprang from the womb as either good leaders or bad leaders. Now we know that that’s not so. No matter where you are in mastering the work of leadership, you can get better if you work at it.

It Hurts Sometimes

Learning to be a great boss is not easy. Sometimes you hurt because you make mistakes, but sometimes you hurt because people do things to you. Sometimes it’s your fault. Sometimes it’s not, it’s just your turn.

How It Happens

The Velveteen Rabbit asks the Skin Horse an important question: “Does it happen all at once, or bit by bit?” The Skin Horse’s answer will tell you an awful lot about what’s ahead of you if you choose to make leadership your calling.

“‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.’”

The Bottom Line

Becoming a great boss won’t happen all at once and the lessons will hurt sometimes. It’s going to take a long time to become a great boss, but that’s just the way it is. The way you get better is “bit by bit,” a little bit every day.

My next book, Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time will help you get better bit by bit. Click here to learn more and sign up to be notified when the book is available.

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