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Leader Or… What Do I Do Well? – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post: Leader or Not to Lead… Ability or Motivation?

Deliberate Practice3 things you can do

Ask “What do I do well?” Start with an honest assessment of yourself. Start with these four leadership areas or simply ask yourself what you do well, make a list then put those abilities or skills in the area you feel is right. You may discover you have skills in other areas so add those areas to the list below. 

David Corbett in his book Portfolio Life discusses the idea that your life is centered on what you care the most about, this could also apply to leadership. Corbett suggests you ask yourself this question, “Name something you do well.” This is a great way to start looking at why you want to be a leader or how to improve your leadership approach. 


1. Assess your motivation, is it internal or external? Ask yourself where the desire to lead is coming from. 

2. Use the table below to assess yourself by identifying what you do well in each of the four common leadership areas and record your answers in your journal, you can list more than one answer. Take your time with this. Observe yourself in meetings, one-on-ones, discussions with other leaders, your peers, and every part of your daily engagement with people. As you think of your behaviors, think of them as an action that is specific, observable, and repeatable. This will help you to identify behaviors that you can measure and determine if you are getting better at them. 

3. Ask what others observe in you. This is hard to do but crucial. You might be thinking is this like a 360-degree review, yes kind of. Having other people tell you what they observe in your actions or behaviors can help you see what you’re not seeing.

These four areas to assess are some of the key traits, characteristics, or behaviors that are present in effective leaders:

  1. Communication behaviors
  2. Influencing behaviors
  3. Relationship behaviors
  4. Humanitarian behaviors

Examples of behaviors to look for:

  • Communication –  I listen to understand, I ask good questions, and my instructions or expectations are always clear. Ask yourself are these specific, observable, and repeatable?
What drives you to be a leader?

In the following four areas ask yourself what you do well:
Communication (Are you just hearing or are you listening?)

Influencing (Influencing without manipulation)

Relationships ((Are you encouraging growth and success in others, setting team goals, and giving constructive and effective feedback)

Humanitarian (How you treat your staff, team members, and others you work with)

After you take some time and think about your answers ask yourself if your behaviors support your desire to be a leader. If some of them don’t, this is a place to start working on developing or enhancing those behaviors.

Ask someone else what they think

Here’s the hard part, ask the people you work with to give you their observations of what you do well and if you dare, what could you improve in any or all of the four areas. 

What they see may be different from what you see, I call these shadows which are behaviors that are unknown to us or hard for us to see in ourselves but others see them. Tell your observers you are engaged in the pursuit of personal development and that their observations are important to you. Then you need to take the feedback with gratitude and use it otherwise no one will ever be honest with you.  

To be an effective leader you need to model the way, walk your talk, and act how you want others to act. So, ask yourself, “How do people see me?” Compare your observations with the observations of others you asked. Look for the similarities and differences of perspective or shadows. This will give you a good idea of what you do well and what behaviors could use some development.

Keep a journal, and write down what you want to start doing and what you want to stop doing. Observe yourself every day, the more you deliberately practice the behaviors you want, the more ingrained they become in your daily leadership work.  

You might be saying, these are really basic behaviors and everyone should know them. You’re right and the truth of the matter is, these basic behaviors are the ones we quickly forget about or they go right out the door the moment we’re challenged. That’s why we do deliberate practice so these basic behaviors become the foundation for more effective leadership. 

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.

Steven Covey said, “Are leaders born or made? This is a false dichotomy-leaders are neither born nor made. Leaders choose to be leaders.”

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