I have often heard people say how much they would like to play tennis as well as Roger Federer, but without committing to the necessary, but unseen, hitting of a thousand tennis balls a day. This doesn’t sound quite so appealing as belting a great shot on the big stage. We all know that an expensive racquet is nowhere near enough to achieve prowess, either. Some cynics even believe they could rise to stardom with similar ‘luck’, yet we all know that success needs a certain determination and discipline, as well as the raw talent to begin with. Even without natural skill, there are some intentionalities we can also implement for improved leadership success in almost any chosen field of endeavour. These might be unseen by most, but are crucial to our success.
- Practice. Often there are too many ‘Chiefs’ and not enough ‘Indians’ in organisations. The road to success is paved with hard work that delivers results. Practice makes perfect. Faithfulness must be accompanied by fruitfulness but, just when a leader figures he has achieved some success, he often becomes aware that there is more he still needs to know or do. Humility and coaching can therefore produce a wealth of insights and self-discovery for future benefit as we realise we have never arrived.
- Patience. Impetuosity can see adventurous or ambitious people advance their own cause well ahead of due time. Pushing incumbents off their leadership throne is hardly going to win friends and influence people. Sometimes, though, ‘leading up’ or having difficult conversations will be important, as long as humility is maintained. A person once agitated to take over leadership of a church, citing God as the inspiration, but had to wait ten years in the realisation that God was merely trying to get his attention for some preparation.
- Perseverance. Many a young person has told me about their inability to meet a deadline, whether with an assignment, a task or some agreed commitment. However, many successful people have honoured their word by pushing through interruptions or unanticipated difficulties and, if necessary, staying up late. There are ridiculous extremes of overwork or drivenness, but successful people typically do what needs to be done. This not about impressing people as much as it is about recognising that nothing worthwhile is achieved without commensurate sacrifice… and the humility to regard others as deserving of our best.
Humility is the key thread in this unseen development of a leader’s skill. Interestingly, it is an oft-observed trait in Roger Federer! For the Christian, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Humility keeps ajar the door that hard work pushes open. The door swings widest when the vital unseen traits of practice, patience and persistence are maintained in humility, even when talent is not as great in us as it might appear to be in others.