Is leadership a matter of theory or practice?

Giuseppe Ando
min read
Is leadership a matter of theory or practice?
Is leadership a matter of theory or practice? | peopleHum

"Practice is worth more than grammar" is a phrase that I have always found reductive and with the acrid taste of that petty wisdom, which sacrifices speculative research in favor of the most meager practical sense. However, thinking of contemporary managers, one wonders: what do they really need?

Do they need knowledge (grammar) or do they need skills (practice)? Do they need to earn yet another fashion master's degree or do they need to change the way they manage people in their daily context?

  1. If the answer is that managers need more theory to apply to their leadership, to design visions and goals, develop values, motivate people, etc. then coaching is not very helpful. 
  2. If the answer is that managers must develop a more practical communication skills, relational know-how, they must revisit and change the way they relate daily with their employees, with their customers and with their partners and / or colleagues, then the skills they can acquire through a coaching path can be quite appropriate.

Not only that, but, "practicing the practice", they would be able to acquire the skills useful to become, in turn, coaches. An executive coaching path creates a behavioral learning environment without paper or slides, which provides each coachee with an active context to acquire operational and very practical skills. Through coaching, leaders learn "by doing and practicing" and not by absorbing theoretical knowledge about practice (oxymoron?). The correct approach of executive coaching is not focused on theory, nor on concepts, but on the acquisition of concrete and behavioral skills, through the repeated experimentation of competences, until they become second nature and are naturally incorporated into the being itself. of leaders.

Consequently, the the outcome of an adequate executive coaching path is the stable change in the daily behavior of the leader in the workplace. But coaching can have even more profound effects. A leader learns much more than behavioral skills. Change your skin. Learning new behaviors and acquiring very practical skills gradually change their nature. Learning through practical repetition is not just a superficial process, but a progressive shifting of one's self-perception towards a larger and enlarged image of the "self". 

To become a professional pianist, you need to practice hours, days, months and years. Only through practice is mastery truly achieved. Just like in sport, repeated exercise alters personal balance, the distribution of force, speed, personal recovery capacity, heart rhythms, precision in detail, individual concentration, systemic strategy, willpower, etc. Therefore:

  1. practicing practically stabilizes the new behaviors;
  2. these condition the new perception of the "self";
  3. ultimately, it changes the way you are perceived by others.

Nothing to say, in leadership "practice is worth more than grammar".

About the author

Giuseppe Ando is a C-Level & Executive Coach - Associate Partner at the acclaimed Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching. With a career that presides at the crux of the Venn diagram of Passion, Skills, and Experience, Giuseppe’s reputation as top executive coach has spanned decades. Among his many accolades, he is also recognized for his unique ability to understand and inspire those he coaches to excel professionally and personally while also delivering their organization’s desired results.

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