In his recent book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell references a study from the Berlin Elite Academy of Music that analyzes what separates different levels of ability among aspiring violinists.   The three levels of competence were great, good, and average. What determined the category for each student was not what you might assume. It was not innate ability, raw talent, or even passion for music.

In each case it was something else that determined the students level of competence. The determinant . . . practice. That’s right, the amount of practice was the single most important factor in deciding one’s ability. According to the study, the students who showed great ability (world-class) had, on average, practiced 10,000 hours by age 20. The good performers had averaged 8,000 hours of practice.  The average performers had put in about 4,000 hours.

The point? If you want to be great at something (regardless of what Allen Iverson says) . . .  practice. The fact is there are no shortcuts when it comes to reaching your full potential. Evidence shows that it was hard work, rather than brilliance, that made Mozart, Einstein, and Baryshnikov what they were.

I once heard a leader say that if you want to be world-class at an activity, spend an hour a day practicing it, and in five years you will be an expert.

As a leader where do you find yourself these days? Great, good, or average? Chances are your answer reflects how much you have been practicing.

By disciplining yourself to spend a few minutes every day reading, listening to another leader, or writing, you position yourself to maximize your influence. The fact is there are more leadership resources available today than ever before. There is simply no excuse for failing to be a growing leader who is pursuing greatness.  Practice is the key. While practice might not make perfect, it will lead to progress. A little bit over time will add up to a lot.

Perhaps it would be a good time for you to evaluate your leadership habits and recommit yourself to consistent practice. You won’t regret it!

Action Step: Discipline yourself to spend 15 minutes each day this week taking in leadership resources.  (Books, blogs, podcasts, articles, etc…)