To Be the Best Leader, One Must Practice…and Practice Correctly
“Music did not reveal all of its secrets to just one person.” – Ralph Vaughan Williams
“In every failure, there is a seed of a future success.” – Napoleon Hill
Erica Sipes has a blog called “Beyond the Notes.” The point is that making music is more than playing all the right notes. Erica has a passion for teaching musicians how to practice. A non-musician might think that, certainly, a musician must know how to practice. Well, I can tell you that learning to practice is a life-long journey of discovery and learning. The world-famous concert pianist, Artur Rubinstein, was known for saying that he didn’t learn how to practice until he reached the age of 70. Wow! Here is a man who became known as one of the best concert pianists in the world, and he didn’t know how to practice. Well, I’m sure that he did know a lot about practicing, because he was an amazing performer.
Over my 40-year career as a choral conductor, I arranged for many of the best conductors in the world to come to my church in Florida and spend a week with me, my choir, and orchestra, to rehearse and perform a special concert. I discovered that all of these highly skilled conductors were great at their choral art because they were very disciplined. They also were quite aware of what they didn’t know. Therefore, even though some of these conductors were in their 60s or 70s, they were still learning and growing their knowledge and skills. They had secrets for rehearsal that they shared with me, and my choir and orchestra.
I have observed competent, talented performers – not only musicians, but also powerful leaders of successful organizations. They all have a great self-awareness and a passion for excellence. They are also dedicated to getting it right, no matter what “it” is. They all have made mistakes and are not diminished by those mistakes.
In college, my piano teacher said to me, “When you make a mistake, realize that it’s not your first one and will not be your last one either, so get over it.” He could see that the possibility of making a mistake was paralyzing me. We don’t want to make mistakes in performance, so we rehearse doing it right. It takes a long time to learn some things, so putting a methodology in place will be a guide for success. You can learn to do things correctly, or learn to do them badly. You get to choose.
I work with leaders in many types of organizations. The temptation for many of them is to want to “short-track” a process by not writing out goals, building clear action plans, rehearsing presentations, planning meetings, or scheduling time for reflection and regrouping. In any organization, there is an importance in building high performance standards. The leader and team must “Rehearse for Success.”
In her blog post on August 31, 2012, Erica Sipes talks about rehearsing for a performance. She provides some insights to rehearsing for a particular performance. The concepts can be applied to leadership, as well. Here’s what she says is needed:
- A connection with what it feels like to be playing this music in a relaxed state
- Time to audiate and truly hear everything I’m playing as it is happening which also enables me to play slowly while preserving and even exploring musicality
- Time to predict and audiate what’s coming up next which helps even more with musicality
- Time to breathe regularly, especially during the challenging passages where I tend to hold my breath
- A freedom in movement, especially in my arms and hands, where I’m tempted to tense up in anticipation of a difficult sequence of notes
- Time to also hear the other players’ parts in my head so that they don’t catch me off-guard in performances
- A chance to fall in love with the music I’m playing
Did you get it? Here’s what she said that can be applied to leadership:
- Connect to the activity and visualize remaining calm. When approaching any leadership situation, we do our best work when we are fully present, and think clearly by remaining calm.
- Pay attention to what you are doing – listen and don’t assume.
- Plan with the future in mind and anticipate what will come next. Be prepared for a continuing process. You are not leading a series of events. You are leading an ongoing process.
- Breathe. That’s it, breathe. Simple, but we forget to breathe and relax.
- Don’t get tense when the going gets tough. Others will feel your anxiety and respond in kind. Stay calm and you will not only help others to do so, but you can think more clearly. Our words are only 7% of what we communicate. Be aware of your movements and facial expressions.
- Respond to what’s happening in your team, and don’t react. Observe and don’t control. You will have more influence and achieve better results.
- Be in touch with your passion for what you are doing. You might not be aware of the importance of a particular activity or task. Reframe your perspective.
The Transformational Leader leads by example.
Do you have a rehearsal plan for the week?
The Transformational Leadership Strategist
(c) 2012 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.