How to Walk Your Path to Leadership Mastery
One of the paths of leadership leads to mastery. Is this your path? How do you know this is your path?
Leadership is a journey, not just a state of authority, and authority is not the final destination. Rather, it is the beginning. Where do you go from there? What are the outcomes you are committed to produce in the world and in people’s lives?
Knowing what you want to take care of with your leadership is the first step to mastery.
Knowing what you want to take care of with your leadership is the first step to mastery. If you don’t know what you care about, people won’t trust you as a leader. They want to know that you are taking care of something that they care about too.
If you are in charge, people may accept your direction. But being in charge does not make you a leader. We have many mistaken ideas of what a leader is: an expert giving direction, a decision maker, the order giver, the one exercising power. Leaders may do these things, but doing them does not make you a leader. Leaders generate committed followers. Leaders provoke commitment to a shared future from others.
The path of leadership is also part of your life’s journey. Why do you choose this path? Why do you care? Leadership is more than a career option. It is joining with others to take care of something meaningful. Without this the leadership role devolves to directing traffic, pushing for results, or facilitating.
Leadership is more than a career option. It is joining with others to take care of something meaningful.
Mastery requires long-term practice. The widely quoted studies of masters say that mastery takes ten thousand hours of practice. Yet we are all spending ten thousand hours in our lives, over and over. What are we mastering? Mediocrity? I know people who have become masters at resignation, for example.
What kind of practice produces mastery? Some call this kind of practice “deliberate practice,” where you are always learning beyond the edge of your current competence. It is a process of continual curiosity, exploration, learning, refinement, and engagement. This kind of practice requires you to bring a fascination and deep engagement with the process itself and its outcomes. To lead, you must have a passion for constantly improving and learning, bringing the energies of play and experimentation as well as discipline.
Your path to mastery:
- Must be meaningful for you, connected to taking care of what you care about.
- The path to leadership requires your care to be something that others care about as well.
- The path requires a focused kind of practice with continual engagement over very long time horizons.
- The journey itself must enliven you — because it’s a lifetime journey.
For a lifetime journey we need a motivation that lasts a lifetime, something we care about that is our basis of meaning. Then leadership is inviting others to join you in taking care of what we care about together. It may be excellence in a field, it may be shifting conditions in the world, it may be enriching life in particular ways. But leadership is a journey of passion, and towards passion. Otherwise we are just looking to do a bit better, or get more, or win. It calls for heart. We must connect to our care, and for leadership we must connect to the hearts of others.
Leadership is inviting others to join you in taking care of what we care about together.
When we know our care, a world of possibilities shows up for taking care. We must choose, since we can’t take care of everything. What will we take care of, and what will we let go? This is commitment, the practice of choice and empowering the choice. Designing our choices will give us power to focus in action and impact.
How do we clarify and share our care and commitment? We do this through conversation. Leadership is a performance art, and the art is conversation. Leadership is having a voice that is heard, having a story that people share, and having a presence that connects with others. We explore our own conversations and what they provoke in us, and then we explore how to share our conversations and see what they provoke in others. We are looking to produce shared care and commitment to a shared future.
Leadership is having a voice that is heard, having a story that people share, and having a presence that connects with others.
We share our care when we share commitments. When we are in authentic conversation, then we can coordinate action to realize our vision. Without commitment and the coordination of action we can become yearning visionaries with dreams that don’t happen.
The practices of leadership mastery that show your path and lead you to your mastery are lifetime practices to:
- Clarify our care, and the care we share with others.
- Clarify our commitments, and the commitments we share with others.
- Have conversations that connect and provoke commitment from others.
- Coordinate actions in service of our commitments, and to taking care of what we care about.
There are many leadership skills in coordinating action, but without the context of shared care, commitment, and effective conversations they become mere technique.
As human beings we live in language. The future lives in our language, in our stories, and in the background of our expectations. When we see this, we can become designers of our stories, our futures, our actions, and our impact with others, rather than being captives of the drift of our unexamined default stories.
When we awaken to our innate human power of creation, we can practice creating the future with others and making it happen. We can walk our path to leadership mastery.