By definition a leader is an innovator. Leaders are pioneers, seeking to break new ground, to make old things new, to put things together in a new and creative way. A leader seeks new things with an eye on the future. The challenge in bring about new things is that you cannot rely on tried and true methods for creating a new future. To bring to pass things that have not been done before requires experimentation.
Experimentation helps leaders learn what works and what doesn’t. This helps leaders to learn and grow, adjust their approach and to try again. In this situation, leaders don’t worry about failing, rather they use their errors to learn. Without experimentation leaders fail to grow and visions do not come into reality.
The practice of experimentation is needed for leaders to learn and grow. In fact, leadership can only be learnt and improved through practice and experimentation.
“You can’t learn by reading up on it, you’ve got to do it. The only real laboratory is the laboratory of leadership itself.” – Warren Bennis, “On Becoming a Leader”
Leadership entails risk and a continual experimentation, learning, reflection and adjustment. A great way to get into the habit of leading and learning through experimentation is to adopt the practice of 30 day experiments.
Use 30 Day Experiments to Embed New Leadership Practices
30 day experiments are a way of taking a great leadership idea or practice and setting aside 30 days to focus on making the practice a part of your life or organisation. How often have you read a book and found a great leadership idea or technique that you thought would make a real difference on your life. But, despite you best intentions you have not taken any action to make the change. The following story from the post “Read any good books lately? So what?”, illustrates the difficultly many people experience in applying leadership principles and practices in their lives.
“One of the best-selling business books of all time is Stephen Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A colleague of mine recently told me about attending a workshop at which the presenter asked, “How many people here have read 7 Habits? Stand up if you’ve read the book.”
More than half of the 100 people in attendance stood.
Then the presenter said, “If you can remember three of the seven habits, stay standing. If you can’t name at least three habits, sit down.”
More than half of those standing sat down.
Then he said “If you can recite all seven habits, stay standing.”
Only three people remained standing.
Finally, he said, “If you are living all seven habits in your life, remain standing.”
The remaining three people sat down.
That event further illustrates the sad truth that we can read good books, but reading is not enough. If we want to incorporate what we read we need to seriously study the content.”
30 day experiments can help us apply leadership practices in our lives.
- Identify: Identify one leadership practice which you feel will make a significant improvement in your leadership.
- Decide: Turn the practice into an experiment for 30 days. For the next 30 days look at ways of apply it in your life. The goal is to learn how to effectively apply the practice and to then test the results.
- Adjust, Learn and Embed: If you find the results are positive make a decision to incorporate this new leadership practice into your life. If the results are poor, learn from the experience. Then repeat, move on to the next 30 day experiment.
The development of effective leadership is a life-long process built on strategy, execution, reflection and learning. Through this process we become authentic in out leadership, to be an authentic leader means we are our own author.
- Identify 2-3 leadership practices that will make a difference in your life or in your team?
- What 1-2 practices do you think can be implemented by using a 30 day experiment?