For as long as I can remember my Dad has been getting up at 4:30am to read. He’s reading journal articles, the newspaper, studying with an intensity that few could match. While he retired quite a few years ago, he keeps himself current on the latest research and still attends association meetings and conferences. He’s re-ignited his passion for the guitar and Spanish – practicing both for hours on end each day, and is on his way to becoming a master gardener. My Dad has modeled growth and development my entire life. A hunger for knowledge – for mastery – that has been contagious. I’m grateful.
As leaders you likely know that one of the most important things you can do for your organization is to build your bench strength. And for many leaders I meet, growing and developing their employees is one of the most satisfying things they do at work. But just like our kiddos don’t respond well to “do what I say, not what I do”, the people we lead need good models to follow. If we want them to grown themselves, we have to be willing to do the same.
It always amazes me when organizations invest in training their emerging leaders (and don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful they do!), but don’t expect their senior leaders to invest the time to improve and grow themselves. What message does that send?
One of the things I have always loved most about the theatre is the culture of learning. Great actors are never done exploring, testing, honing. They remain curious. They continue to take classes. To train. Always seeking mastery.
Mastery is allusive. It’s always out of reach. You can never quite achieve it because you can always be better.
But if you don’t want to pursue mastery for the sake of those you lead, consider doing it for yourself. Dan Pink, in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, identifies pursuing mastery as one of the top three things we need to feel motivated. We like to experience ourselves getting better, knowing more, improving, but as Pink says, “The joy is in the pursuit more than the realization.” The cool thing is, that’s totally within our own realm of control. We can grow ourselves without permission.
And today there is no shortage of tools to grow yourself. Linkedin makes it super easy to scan the daily “Influencer Posts” and catch up on the latest thinking from a huge cross-section of leaders, researchers, and writers. Next time you’re on a flight, try reading a book instead of catching up on email. Join a mastermind group. Take a class!
Wherever you are in your leadership journey, find a way to keep growing and learning. Never stop – no matter how fancy your title becomes. Seek mastery, knowing that it’s a quest that will never end. That’s a legacy that’s contagious.
©OnStage Leadership, 2013
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