“I work on the same principle as people who train horses. You start with low fences, easily achievable goals, and work up. — Ian McGregor
Developing your skill sets as a leader is not an overnight process. It’s something that takes time and commitment. It’s a process.
I liken the process to one of my favorite hobbies — photography. Back in the day of first learning my photography skills things were much different from today. It was all manual. Various photography classes back then taught me the fine art of things like shutter speeds, f/stops, dark rooms, lighting, composition and more.
You had to learn the skill in order to be good.
Nowadays with a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a fully automatic camera that takes all the guess work out of it. Ask the owner to switch to manual mode — not to mention the rule of thirds, negative space in composition, etc. and take a picture, most would be at a loss on where to begin.
Here’s the problem. With that expensive fully automatic camera in your hands, it can make you look better than you are. You can have the fancy equipment, but without the training on how to use it, you are creating a false impression.
One of the dangers in leadership is bypassing the learning process and securing the foundational principles needed for growth and maturity. This is why many an aspiring leader never reach their full potential. They rush the process. But with an open mind coupled with the attitude of a student, your leadership skills can be developed and you can rise to the next level.
It’s when you start with the low fences that you earn your leadership stripes. Here are a few low fence concepts worth considering as you think about your future and growth as a leader.
The low fence of humility
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Aspiring leaders can blur the lines when they think their degree conveys wisdom. Your formal education is your right of passage to your real education. A strong dose of humility is in order starting out and is well worth remembering when you are older. There’s always something new to learn.
The low fence of dependability
There are no shortcuts on the path to proven leadership. It takes men and women who are willing to roll up their sleeves and earn their stripes. If you can’t be counted on in the low fence things of your leadership how can people raise their expectations of you for greater things? It’s in the daily grind that you show yourself dependable.
The low fence of flexibility
Sometimes in leadership, you have to throw out the script. Your growth and sanity as a leader will be tested with this low fence skill in more ways than you can imagine. If you can learn this low fence skill early it will save you a lot of grief later.
The low fence of loyalty
Loyalty is one of the pillars of leadership. All the creative powers in your arsenal of skills will not amount to much if loyalty is an afterthought. Faithfully striving to represent the values, mission, and vision of your organization should be the focal point of all that you do.
The low fence of service
The heartbeat of leadership is service. It’s about adding value. It’s about lifting others up, not tearing down. It’s servant leadership. The beauty of this skill set is that you never outgrow it. But with your growth and development as a leader comes the opportunity to have a greater impact. Develop this skill early while the fence is low. But never forsake it. The more you give and the more you serve, the greater the influence you can have.
Just as low fences are the starting points for training horses, it’s where you begin as a leader. But you are not designed nor destined to stay at that level. You have a higher destiny that you need to walk in. Low fences are where you start, but they are not where you should stay. You must raise the bar.
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Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at ddickerson@ lasvegastribune.com.