A recent Fortune article on “Why Talent is Overrated” really got me going.
We live in a world of expecting quick fixes and instantaneous change. Information is available at a moment’s notice. Yet we’re trying to apply the instantaneous responses that work with our Blackberries to human behavior. This article makes the case that there is no quick fix for greatness.
Apparently, specific (targetted) natural gifts don’t exist. Tiger Woods wasn’t born to be a champion golfer and Jack Welch wasn’t born to be a CEO. But take heart. Natural talent doesn’t really matter. What does? Good old fashioned hard work (perhaps with a dose of passion tossed in).
Apparently there is something called the “Ten Year Rule” – well established by researchers as the time it takes to do the hard work to become world-class at whatever. Research has proven this in a variety of fields.
This “Ten Year Rule” is supported by research done by Benjamin Bloom (who died in 1999) at the University of Chicago. Dr.Bloom found that at least ten years of hard work (a minimum) was required for atheletes, performers, artists, biochemists and mathematicians to reach their peak.
Apparently, something called “deliberate practice” is also necessary during these ten years for the best people in any field to excel. This is a specific practice that stretches an individual beyond their level of competence, provides feedback on the experience, requires adjustment based on the feedback and is repeated until mastered. Lots of deliberate practice equals mastery.
Even if you are skeptical about the ten year rule, the necessity for deliberate practice and hard work seem to make sense. So why wouldn’t this apply to great leadership? High potentials are thrown into workshops and expected to excel to the level of great leadership. The research refutes that this will work. It’s time for us to recognize that developing leaders takes time and hard work. And lots of practice.