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You Can't Rush Leadership

I was shacking up with my speaker pal Antonio Neves at a conference last weekend. I came back to the room late one night and he'd fallen asleep to a book on tape in an effort (I assume) to learn via osmosis. As it turned out, on the tape was Zig Ziglar. I'd heard of Zig, but never heard him speak, so I settled in to listen before I fell asleep.

My first impression? This guy talks way too fast. I know he's got some great quotes and books, but I had no idea why people thought he was such a great speaker when he was clearly speeding through his content.

I found out the next morning that in an effort to consume more content, Antonio chooses to listen to his books on twice the speed. Thus Zig turned Alvin. 

I tried it last week. While walking to pick my daughter up from school, I played an episode of "Fresh Air" at double the speed. Since Terry Gross kind of speaks in half speed anyway, I didn't think it would be a huge shift. And it wasn't, after I got past everyone speaking a bit more high pitched than normal.

I was excited, so I began to dream. What else can I listen to this fast?! Think how much I'll be able to consume now! Look at me, everyone: Mr. Productive Leader!

Except, consumption isn't the point of deep leadership. Understanding is.

You could visit The Getty in under an hour, jog though every room and look at every painting or picture or sculpture. But you won't actually see any of them. That'll take a weekend. You also won't experience any of them. That'll take a lifetime.

There's a real temptation to read a book on leadership or take a class from someone and then assume at the end that you're now ready to lead. By all means, read and listen and learn. But don't forget to digest or discuss or reflect. 

Then go and apply it. Not in a rush to check it off your list, but in real time, at real speed, with real people. 

The work of the leader isn't to consume. It's to understand.

Sam DavidsonComment