Sunday, November 05, 2006

Developing Field Sense

Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve had to explain myself or at least my thinking on leadership a lot more than I used to. I think it is because I’ve been having a real problem with the word.

The problem is, the Leadership-Industrial Complex has stolen a useful word and ruined it. Leadership has become a product, a thing rather than a set of qualities.

As much as I hate them, this might make more sense if I use a sports analogy, say soccer.

In soccer, a player with field sense has the ability to read the game as it is being played, to adjust their actions to their team’s and their opponents strengths and weaknesses. If great players are the ones with great field sense, does that mean great players practice field sense? If yes, what does that mean?

Is a player practicing field sense if she studies the rules of the game, the lay out of the field, or memorizes the play book? Is she practicing field sense when she builds endurance by running; does weights with the team, or re-learns her throw-in? Is a player practicing field sense when she does 200 passes from the left, followed by 100 runs through a three-man screen?

Are the great players, the ones that practice the best field sense?

Practicing field sense? What are you talking about? There’s no such thing as practicing field sense!

Exactly! You don’t practice field sense, you practice soccer. This may mean studying the rules to learn the basics, going to camp to improve your form and practicing with the team to learn the plays. But you’re not practicing field sense; you’re developing skills your filling your tool box.

Field sense on the other hand develops over time, on the field, against real opponents. Field sense comes from the game, not the practice.

Here in lies the rub; leadership is the field sense of the business and organizational world. So, if you don’t practice field sense, then how do you practice leadership?

Exactly! You don’t.

You develop it over time. You begin by learning the rules; you train with both formal and informal education; and you practice by working as a leader. Often times you fail and some times you succeed. Eventually, you develop a sense of what works and what doesn’t; then you repeat.

As you practice being a leader and your leadership qualities improve you may move to positions of greater responsibility and span of control, i.e. bigger leagues. As you move up, you constantly adjust your play, you study the game, you train and you practice; then you repeat. As with most things in life, being a leader is a journey not destination

Unfortunately, the Leadership-Industrial Complex has been extremely successful selling the conventional wisdom that leadership is something you do, something that everyone must do, that leaders are those that do leadership.

This belief that doing leadership makes a leader is perhaps the most infectious agent in this Leadership Epidemic that states that leadership is the be-all and end-all answer to an organization’s problems.

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Take care...

John

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read this Blg and to my surprise I actualy understood what you are talking about. At first I didn't understand until you used soccer as an example.
Well The bells is about to ring for lunch so I will talk to you later when you are home! I love you.

Love, Taylor

SKI said...

good stuff...

found you via your recommendation
of goldratt's "The Goal"

-ski