We spent the last week with our 6 month old granddaughter. She’s just learning to crawl. She could probably crawl right now except, due to our visit, she received hardly any time to practice. I’m sure you know what I mean. It was amazing to watch, however, over a one week period how much progress she made at learning to crawl. It made me think about the effort it takes to learn to really be a good leader, and several lessons came alive in my mind.
- It takes more than talk. When we arrived at our granddaughter’s house, she was trying to crawl. However, she wasn’t doing it quite right, so I explained to her the proper way to crawl and described three common applications of crawling techniques. It didn’t help much. When I put her back on the blanket, she acted as if I hadn’t said a word about it. Repeating myself didn’t help. It reminded me that leadership is not merely a transfer of knowledge. There are things to teach, but there’s no substitute for actually giving people the chance to try and fail and try and fail and try, try, try again until they succeed.
- It takes strength. Part of the fun part of the visit was just noticing how much stronger she got in a week’s time. At first she could barely hold herself up on her forearms. After a week of “Building Strength with Pops Workouts” she was doing 50 one-armed push-ups. Well, I may be exaggerating a little, but it was remarkable to me to see, not only the increased personal strength, but also to see how much she needed that strength in order to be able to crawl. I remembered again, that being a leader requires a lot of inner strength. And it takes hardships, experience, and failures to develop that strength.
- It takes learning. It’s fascinating to me to watch how a baby is constantly learning. Miraculously, they develop the ability to sort through one experience after another to make sense of the situation and to develop their abilities. They don’t know how to crawl at first, but they learn. Good leaders never stop learning. Sincere leaders agonize over trying to decide if they should do in the current situation what they did in a previous situation; they wrestle with the thought that, not only should they have done something different, but also, should they have done the same thing, but done it differently! It’s painful to watch this process. It can tempt you to rush in quickly with simple solutions and comforting excuses, but the truth is that this self-analysis is one of the most important aspects of learning to lead—and to lead well.