An Ounce of Practice is Worth a Pound of Theory

Woman giving presentation

The way I see it

You can’t create leaders in a classroom. Leadership isn’t a science, nor is it a profession. It’s a practice, rooted in real life experiences. From my perspective, practical experience is the best teacher. People learn from new challenges. They learn from their mistakes. They learn from other’s perspectives and feedback. 

All the theories in the world don’t make a difference if a person doesn’t understand the connection to their role and can’t apply theoretical concepts on the job – where “the rubber actually hits the road.” Most of what is learned in a training session is lost.

How often have you attended a leadership development program and returned to your job, shelving the training material, and maintaining old habits? In many cases you were given a firehose of learning with disconnected theories and models. You may have thought, “This makes sense, but I don’t know how this applies to me.” If you don’t know why this learning is important for solving your day-to-day leadership challenges, how much are you apt to retain? 

Relationship building is the cornerstone of leadership. When it comes to learning how to build productive relationships, nothing can take the place of insight and reflection followed by committed practice. If you incorporate all of those things, you close the gap between knowing (Why and What) and doing (How.)

Mastering leadership competencies means changing habits. That requires significant effort. It’s like trying to write with your non-dominant hand. It involves doing something that’s uncomfortable and that often feels wrong. It takes hard work and perseverance to develop more productive ways to relate to others. But when you put your mind to it, you’ll reap the benefits.

So, if you are investing in the development of leaders, make sure you ground the learning in reality, create a continuous learning process to follow, and most importantly, make sure there’s a plan of practice to make it stick. 

That’s the way I see it.