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How to Build Upon Your Leadership Skills If you are looking to develop your leadership capacity, look for institutions that work on your practices and support you to shift your practices

By Sameer Dua

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I worked at and ran a business school for 21 years of my life. I thought you learn management and leadership in classrooms. I went and collaborated with one of the four federal universities and then the second largest University in the UK. I worked with thousands of students from 52 different countries and taught them management and leadership.

Today, I realize, I had got it all wrong.

I realize you cannot learn management and leadership in a classroom – just like you cannot learn to swim in a classroom, or play tennis in a classroom; or learn music, dance or any other skill for that matter in a classroom.

You Need to be Out There, Learning in Action.

I am questioning our historical way of learning management and leadership – where we learn first and act later. We need to get our teachers and students to recognize, "you need to act first and then you learn."

Real, Embodied Learning

That is how real embodied learning takes place! Leadership muscle is built through actions and practices, and not through only knowing of concepts (It's exactly like building your body muscles — you can know of the exercise, but till you do not do the exercise, the muscle isn't built.)

Once learning is "embodied" it goes into your muscle memory. You can access that learning at any point of time in your life.

Learning Programmes Not Useful Unless Backed by Actions

I see a lot of leadership programmes take place in classrooms and conference rooms, and I question the usefulness of these programmes, unless backed by actions and practices. Here are some important thoughts for entrepreneurs and middle & senior managers looking to expand their leadership capacity; and, for people in the learning and development space looking to develop their leaders (and their second line of leadership)

Learning Happens by Shifting Practices

It doesn't happen in conference rooms. If you are looking to develop your leadership capacity, look for institutions that work on your practices and support you to shift your practices. Experts say that over 80% of our actions are habitual. We need to change our habitual actions if we want to expand our leadership impact.

Get a Coach

I cannot over emphasize the importance of a coach. Ever since 2010, I have had a coach supporting me, and after each coaching conversation, I have noticed a shift in the way I perceive and interact with my world. It is important to recognize that "Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential."

Create a Structure of People that Support You and Learn with You

In 2012, a bunch of my friends and I created what we then called "The 5Am Club'. We used the club as a place to practice powerful distinctions and practices, get supported by like-minded people, who wanted to play big games (despite not knowing how to when we started), and achieve extraordinary results that we had historically not achieved. The learning each one of us had in that one year perhaps was more than what students perhaps learn theoretically in a business school. This was real learning in action.

Remember, there are no shortcuts to building leadership muscle or any muscle for that matter. The question is, "Are you committed to building your leadership muscle?"

Sameer Dua

Founder Director, The Institute for Generative Leadership, India

Sameer Dua is the founder director of The Institute for Generative Leadership, India. He is also the founder of Gift Your Organ Foundation.

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