If you are a leader who wants to be a very good and possibly great leader, then you need to get really good at a number of things.
In leadership. Read and study and practice and implement as much as you can and as widely as you can in the area of leadership. You can't learn enough about leadership. I was always impressed by how much Bill Hybels studied leadership. He read (year after year) the best books out there and talked with some of the best leadership gurus around. He was relentless in learning leadership. Read about change, teams, vision, values, strategy, motivation, marketing, persuasion, conflict, mentoring, developmental issues, staffing/hiring and the list goes on.
I don't read as much in leadership as I use to, but I'll still read 15-20 of the best leadership books every year. I have several good books just waiting to be read.
in the area of communication. All truly great leaders are truly gifted communicators. Leaders have to communicate in a wide variety of venues and through a diversity of avenues. Public speaking, team leading, one on one, through writing, teaching, short posts, longer articles. You have to educate, motivate, persuade, explain, debate… and… listen, learn, dialogue, ask questions… You can be a very talented leader with excellent ideas, but if you can't communicate -- you are stuck!
Every year I give time and energy to learning how to become a better communicator. One of my projects early this year is to work through the audio and book collection: Speeches That Changed the World, and The Greatest American Speeches.
I also recently read the outstanding book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. If you read 2 or 3 books like this every year and work to implement the best ideas in them, you'll really improve.
In an area of speciality. For example, if you have a passion and gift for evangelism - then learn as much as you can, practice as much as you can and go as far as you can in that areas of interest. The same thing is true if your passion is cross-cultural missions… or working with teens… or understanding post-modernity… or being a theologian…. Whatever it is - get very good at it. (By the way, the speciality to the right IS NOT one of mine.)
Here is a nice article by Laura Spencer on becoming and then positioning yourself as an expert. The image was found at this blogsite as well.
And then develop another speciality as the years go by. Eventually develop several areas of speciality. And then another... and then another. As you do this, you will become what Peter Drucker calls a "deep generalist." Drucker believes that in a world of very narrowly focused specialists/experts, we need a class of well rounded, multi-disciplined deep generalists.
Over the years I have put a lot of energy in to: (1) New Testament studies, then (2) theology, then (3) missions, then (4) leadership, then (5) postmodernity, then (6) spirituality… When I say that, it means that was my main area of focused learning for a 2-5 year period of time.
In the last two years I have been working on a new speciality, a much more focused one - Ignatian spirituality. In fact, I am more focused and strategic in approaching this area of study than I have ever been and the results it is generating are significant. This will be an area of intense learning for the next 3-5 years.
As I have tried to gain some measure of expertise in a new area, I find it stimulates and fertilizes other areas of learning that I already have.
Leaders - put some of your best energy into life long learning and growing. Grow as far as you can and as deep as you can. Then you will be well resourced to do the best work of leadership you can.
Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International