Book Review: 'The Leader Habit: Master the Skills You Need to Lead–in Just Minutes a Day' by Martin Lanik
The Leader Habit: Master the Skills You Need to Lead–in Just Minutes a Day Martin Lanik AMACOM (April 2018)
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
I am among those who believe that leaders are both born and developed. They do not chose their parents and other circumstances into which they are born, circumstances that will probably determine whether or not they become leaders. I say “probably” rather than “necessarily” because some people can overcome the worst possible environment to become peak performers whereas other people, despite being in the best possible environment, waste their advantages and accomplish very little of value.
Lanik: “This book is about forming better habits…The method is simple: you identify a leadership skill you want to master, such as active listening, then you practice that skill through a short, focused exercise every day until it becomes a habit. I call this the Leader Habit Formula…Instead of relying on theoretical knowledge and classroom-based learning, which are the the standard methods for most leadership training, and for educational and self-improvement programs in general, the Formula is a continuous process that helps you develop leadership skills through deliberate practice.” This is precisely what Aristotle had in mind…more than 2,300 years ago.
What is a habit? Lanik: “Psychologists define a habit as an [begin italics] automatic behavior [end italics]. That means that we don’t think about our habits — they seamlessly happen in response to a given cue with little or no conscious effort, and often without us being aware of them. Habits make us more efficient, save us precious metal energy, and allow us to focus on other things — like pondering the meaning of life orffantasizing about our next beach vacation.”
Moreover: “It is this automaticity that turns behaviors into habits. Automaticity is the ability to perform a task without having to focus on its every detail,and it develops with practice. You know you have reached automaticity when you can do two two tasks in parallel at the same time.”
About 50% of human behavior is habitual. Some habits help to develop leadership skills; other habits prevent or compromise that process. Lanik has identified twenty-two core leadership skills that, if internalized, can be turned into habits.
Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have spent decades conducting research to explain how to achieve peak performance. As he explains, “Ultimately, it may be that the only answer to the a world in which rapidly improving technologies are constantly changing the conditions under which we work, play, and live will be to create a society of people who recognize that they can control, their development and understand how to do it. This new world of Homo exercens may well be the ultimate result of what we have learned and will learn about deliberate practice and about the power it gives us to take our future into our own hands.”
This is probably what Alvin Toffler had in mind when suggesting, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Those who refuse to learn, unlearn, and relearn will compound their illiteracy with deliberate practice.
All organizations have people with supervisory responsibilities at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Martin Lanik provides an abundance if information, insights, and counsel that can help them “master the skills they need to lead” more effectively and –over time –do so in just five minutes” a day. So, I think this is a must-read for CEOs and urge them to obtain copies, at least initially, for those who have the most direct reports. I have always viewed the best leaders as “gardeners” who “grow” others to become leaders who then, in turn, “grow” others, etc. The Leader Habit offers a single source, an essential source, to guide and inform that process. Bravo!
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.