As a graceful ballerina pirouettes on stage the audience admires the ease with which she balances twirls and floats. Most spectators don’t even think about the tireless rehearsals, strenuous athletic training, and strict discipline required to complete the performance.
Good leadership is much the same. A skilled leader effortlessly moves a team… or so it seems. Yet, like that skilled dancer, there’s a lot of discipline, patience, rehearsal and talent involved.
Who wants to watch a dancer heaving out of breath after completing her graceful routine? Similarly, no one wants to see leaders struggling under the pressure of daily operations, decision making, and people problems. As a leader it is easy to feel overwhelmed, but good leaders keep turmoil in the wings. Like a dancer trained to perform through exhaustion, good leaders know how to manage their emotions.
Good leaders learn through experience, and sometimes by trial and error. Learning to be a good leader takes patience, persistence, and resilience. Like the dancer with hours of class and rehearsal, leaders sit through a lot of boring stuff -- hours of planning, meetings, project management, board service, etc. Leadership skills do not simply develop overnight.
Effective leaders are prepared. They may appear always capable of effortlessly setting goals and solving problems, but don’t kid yourself. Does a dancer just float on stage? Of course not. Good performances require hours of preparation, whether it’s practicing talking points, researching effective solutions, or spending time brainstorming. Good leaders dedicate time to preparation so that things run smoothly and effortlessly at performance time.
There’s truth to the old tale of natural born leaders. Strong leaders often have intuitive insights, skills, and instincts inherent to their very being that influence their decision making. That being said, the ballerina may have been born with certain athletic ability and physical attributes, but that won’t get her a spot in the New York City Ballet. Good leaders may have natural talent, but it is the extra hours they spend honing their skills that enhance their capacity to lead.
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