3: The Law of Process

The author likens leadership to investing: people who amass fortunes in the stock market do so slowly and over time, and those who seek to amass a great fortune quickly often lose more than they gain.

In the same way, leadership is a collection of skills that you gain over time: you learn and improve by small increments over long periods of time. As a general observation, leaders are learners.

Four Phases of Leadership Growth

The author describes four phases of competence development:

First, is a phase where a person doesn't even know what skills contribute to leadership, and subscribes to myths and misconceptions. These are the types who believe leadership to be a natural talent that a person has or does not have, and do not know where to begin learning.

Second, a person begins to see what skills are involved in leadership. A quote from Disraeli: "To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge." Such a person still doesn't have the skills, but at least he has a sense of what they are, and knows where to begin.

Third, a person begins to gain competence: they are in the process of learning the skills they have identified, discovering new ones, and putting them to use. This is where a person starts to become a leader, and it is a process that even accomplished leaders continue to apply.

Last, the skills a person has learned become natural: they know what to do, and do it almost automatically. This level of proficiency, the ease with which people who have achieved a high level of competence, gives rise to the notion of leadership being innate ... but it is merely the ease of an accomplished practitioner, whose years of effort make it look simple.

Learn Today, Lead Tomorrow

Another Disraeli quote: "The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his time when it comes." That is, there is great deal of preparation in advance for the moment an opportunity arises.

Naturally, this give rise to sports metaphors: the amount of time an athlete spends in the batting cage, or practicing free throws, or doing some other repetitive activity outside of a game situation that enables them to perform when the time comes. The adage is "champions don't become champions in the ring; they are merely recognized there."

A Life-long Process

Unlike athletic prowess, leadership doesn't fade with age - if anything, it improves constantly as we grow older, wiser, and more experienced.

Another example is given of Jimmy Carter, widely considered to be a custodian President who accomplished very little during his years in office. But since he left office, his level of influence has continually increased, and he has impressed many people who were critics of his administration.