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Three Leadership Lessons from Sochi: Practice, Practice, Practice

| February 25, 2014

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Readng, “Three Leadership Lessons from Sochi:  Practice, Practice, Practice,” appeared in the strategy+business blog.  It comes from the pen of Eric J. McNulty, director of research at the National Preparedness Leadership Institute.

No one excels without lots of practice.  Most athletes at the 2014 Olympics have been practicing hours almost every day for years and years.  They each have worked very hard to get the opportunity to rise to the top in their sport.

The lesson for leaders is that “no matter your natural abilities, you can’t simply read a book or take a class and expect to be world-class.  Becoming an outstanding leader takes practice and determination – lots and lots of it.”

The good news is that you can find opportunities to practice leadership skills every day if you start looking for them.  Here are three suggestions:

1.  Be fully present for one day each week to build your emotional intelligence.  Your goal is to have a genuine engagement with everyone you encounter, no matter who they are or the relationship they have with you.  Address each person by name.  Make eye contact.  Ask a question and really listen to the answer.  Give the person your undivided attention.  As you do this, you’ll become more aware of yourself and your impact on others.

2.  Assume a power pose to boost your confidence and calm.  Research by Ann Cuddy, a professor at the Harvard Business School, has shown that by assuming a power pose for two minutes you can boost your testosterone and lower your cortisol levels.  This changes the chemical balance in your body and increases your self-assurance and calms your jitters in high stress situations.  (Think about that major presentation or that possibly difficult meeting with a client.)  As a result, you feel more powerful and become more open to risk.  Sounds a bit hokey, but it really works.  Give it a try, perhaps in private.

3.  Keep a leadership journal. McNulty reminds us that taking time to reflect, especially on a regular basis, has become a casualty of our overly complex, rushed lives.  However, as he also notes, taking the time to reflect is essential if you are to build an understanding of your life and the world around you.  It is through such reflection that you perceive opportunities and threats, make decisions, and comprehend what elements of leadership are needed in a particular context.  

Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy or the entries long.  Just take a little space each day to note what went well, what could have been better, what surprised you, and what you learned about yourself and others.  Then, say, on the last Friday of each month, read through what your thoughts have been.  It’s the story of your growth as a person and your development as a leader.

Outstanding leaders practice.  Why don’t you begin this week to put at least one of these three tools into your repertoire.  


Have a great week.  .  .  .    jim