Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Leadership Muscle Density

There are two schools of thought on how to improve on a physical weakness. Let’s take something we have to do in the Army for our Fitness test – pushups.

School of thought #1 says to break the training down to specific muscles. Do focused chest exercises: high repetition, low weights; low repetition, high weights. Do bench press, incline press, decline press, flies. Use barbells, dumbbells, and machines. Work shoulders and triceps with the same sort of variety. Alternate push/pull exercises. Alternate your grip. Change your diet: more protein, less carbs; more carbs, less protein.

Will it help your pushups? Probably.

School of thought #2 says if you want to be better in pushups – DO PUSHUPS!

Will it help your pushups? I guarantee it.

So much of leadership training is the same way.

School of thought #1 says to read books, listen to books on tape, download books on your ipod. Go to seminars. Get a mentor. Attend schools. Work on communication, listening skills, counseling techniques. Get training for time management, project management, and resource management. Get the picture?

School of thought #2 says to be a better leader, start leading! Volunteer to take on a difficult project. No matter how small, step forward and lead a team. Be a coach or a girl scout leader or a volunteer board member. Lead something, lead someone. Just do it.

Now mind you, I’m not suggesting there is no place for school of thought #1. There is a need for all of those elements. But there is no substitute for learning by doing. There is no better way to become a better leader than to jump in and start doing it. Make mistakes, learn, and get better. Try different things.

There is no better way to get better at pushups than to do pushups -- first 1, then 10, then 50. And there is no better way to become a better leader than by leading -- one person, than 10, then 50.

Each repetition of pushups builds muscle density. Each leadership rep does the same thing.
How are your “workouts” going? That’s Leader Business.


mark cowin said...

Hi Tom,

Boy oh boy am I school of thought #1! Your post is a great kick in the backside to get out there and volunteer to lead some more teams.

Do you want to talk about it or just get in and do it?

Tom Magness said...

You're right, Mark. I'm thinking that those things in school of thought #1 are simply warm up exercises. We've still got to get in the arena and start working those muscles -- start leading. Hooah!

James T. Parsons said...

Hey Tom,

I am a strong believer and supporter of your view, here. While I think Thought #1 can help improve existing leadership, I don't think that it creates leadership without actual application under #2. Too often I see those that are "arm-chair" leaders who have, like the analogy, never been in the "game." It is easy to second guess the real leaders when you watching from the side-line - without actual game pressure. However, leadership is often NOT about the theory of leadership, but the ability to do it IN game pressured situations.

I have also found that often those who have lead, became stronger followers - since it can be a pain to be the leader, who often has to deal with not win-win, but lose-lose situations. Getting in the game helps also with your prior concept - of followership!

As always, good post!

Tom Magness said...

Thanks for stopping by, James. You are so right -- it is about getting in the game. Learning happens through so many different channels. But at some point, it must be applied in real life situations.

Football players don't become great by watching games on TV. If so, I'd be in the the pros! Greatness comes from practice, hard work, and years of game experience.

Thanks to you, James -- for being IN the game! Hooah!