Do Business Leaders Practice Like Other Professionals?

murray practice

Whether it be sports, music or theatre, to get to the top takes talent and practice.  Practice, Practice, Practice.  And to stay on top takes more practice.  For every hour in a tennis tournament, a professional tennis player spends dozens of hours on the practice court. Those who think they have arrived once they reach the top standings and cut back on their practice routines soon find themselves out hustled and out gunned by those who practice religiously.

It’s the first, second and third laws of professionalism: practice, practice, practice.


And there are many types of practice.  Skills practice. Physical fitness practice. Mental practice.  Reading and advancing ones knowledge. Getting feedback from trusted advisors.  All are forms of practice; keeping and improving your world-class skills

Do Business Leaders Practice?

So, when someone asked me the other day whether business leaders practice to improve their leadership skills, I honestly had to stop and scratch my head.  Quickly I scanned my 35 years of business experience coaching and consulting with CEOs and senior executives. I mentally ran through an average week of a CEO and it quickly became apparent: not much time for practice! Unless you call meetings leadership practice? And not much time for feedback or coaching!

In fact, not much free time for anything.  Most of their week is filled with back to back meetings.  Many even sneak some time while  in the bathroom to check emails!

So how do CEO’s and senior executives improve their leadership skills?

The short, honest answer? They don’t! Not that they wouldn’t like to improve.  There is no time.  And the result?

And we wonder why cultures drift over time from “high-performance” towards “dysfunctional” and “toxic”.

What do you think?

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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4 Responses to Do Business Leaders Practice Like Other Professionals?

  1. I’d written a while back on my blog that managers and leaders understand less well the idea of practice and the 10 000 hours effect than musicians, so I agree with you John


  2. Steve Borek says:

    I disagree. To be a great leader, you must practice.

    I’m a facilitator for The Leadership Challenge based on the book my Kouzes and Posner.

    The 5 practices of exemplary leaders are:

    1 – Model the Way
    2 – Inspire a Shared Vision
    3 – Challenge the Process
    4 – Enable Others to Act
    5 – Encourage the Heart

    These five must be practiced on a daily basis.

    If you try to do one or some on an as needed basis, your constituents will know it’s not authentic. However if you show up every day, practicing one or maybe two, on a consistent basis, you’ll become a better leader that followers want to follow.


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