Room for improvement

Why great leaders never stop sharpening up their game.

Novak Djokovic won the ATP World Tour finals for the third time in a row earlier this month, only the third player ever to do so. He ranks No. 1 in the world, has won seven grand slam single titles and is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Naturally, Novak spends a lot of time practising his game with a coach. In fact, over the last nine years he has worked with five coaches, sometimes more than one at a time. Even at the top - in fact, especially at the top - he continues to pick apart and rebuild every aspect of his game so he can come back on court and triumph again. Imagine if he announced at the press conference following his latest win that he was going to stop practising seeing as he was now so brilliant. The world would think he'd lost his marbles.

And yet, when it comes to the business world, we find much of the focus (and budget) for developing talent is aimed at the middle and lower ranks. More often than not, continuous development of leadership skills within the executive team is excluded.


Why is this? Do these senior leaders see themselves as the finished article? Do they feel like they should know all this stuff already, therefore would lose face if they put themselves forward for leadership development? Do they feel their time is better spent elsewhere rather than on developing their own skills? Do they struggle to find the right kind of support that will help them raise their game? The answer is probably yes to all the above.

One thing for sure though, when those lower down in the business begin to develop their own leadership capabilities, it's not long before they start asking questions about the way they are being led. You know that old saying 'Lead by example'? It's pointless investing all that money in getting others to lead well if you then go and behave in an incongruent and ineffective way.

When you rank high up in your organisation you owe it to yourself - and everyone you lead - to make sure you're on top of your leadership game. How do you do this? Keep assessing your performance based on objective feedback, surround yourself with people who can challenge you to deliver your very best and never, ever stop practising.

Date posted: 28 November 2014