Great leaders have always understood leadership and learning to be inseparable. In fact, John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, once said: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
You might now be thinking: Well, that’s aiming high! Don’t.
Authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner argue that great leadership is not a part of anyone’s DNA, nor is it a God-given talent. It’s a combination of intent, dedication and (a lot of!) practice. In short: If you want it enough and work hard, anything is possible. Even if that means becoming the next president!
“Your beliefs about your ability to learn are where it all starts. They influence your motivation, your level of effort, your desire to persist and your openness to feedback.”
The Five Fundamentals of Exemplary Leadership
In Learning Leadership, the authors recommend starting a leadership journal to set your goals, stay on track and remember that leading can be learned. Perform these five practices to become the exemplary leader you’re destined to be:
1. “Believe You Can”
The first step to becoming an exemplary leader is to understand yourself. Think about your values, your desires, what motivates you and what challenges you. Do this and you’ll spot them in others, too!
2. “Aspire To Excel”
Make sure you know your values and beliefs so that you can communicate them clearly. After all, if people understand you, they will more likely follow you! Practice leadership for the right reasons and listen to others to map your future.
3. “Challenge Yourself”
Seek and embrace challenges! Challenging yourself helps you achieve “flow” – a state in which you perform at your peak. Don’t worry about failure but use fear as a weapon; let it drive and motivate you – and learn from it!
4. “Engage Support”
Don’t just rely on yourself; include others and enlist their support. Try to build relationships that matter: Observe and connect with exemplary leaders and people you admire. To get ahead: Seek and give productive feedback – it’s a skill most leaders lack!
5. “Practice Deliberately”
Practice, practice, practice! It’s what makes leaders top performers.
Only “deliberate practice” leads to greatness. Structure your leadership practices, think about what you do, set goals, devise techniques, build “muscle memory” and form healthy, disciplined habits – especially the habit of constant learning.