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The Power of Experience: Developing Proficiency in Leadership

In the world of leadership development, it is widely acknowledged that proficiency in leadership cannot be solely attained through reading books and attending training courses. While these resources provide valuable knowledge and insights, true mastery is achieved through real-life experiences and continuous practice.

Today we will explore six key areas of practice that are crucial for leaders to develop their skills: building a unifying vision, developing strategy, hiring and motivating the right people, focusing on results, fostering innovation, and leading themselves.

Building a Unifying Vision

A strong and compelling vision is the foundation of effective leadership. Leaders must be able to articulate a clear direction that inspires and motivates their team towards a common goal. This requires the ability to communicate the vision in a way that resonates with others, and to create a shared sense of purpose and meaning. Leaders who have developed proficiency in this area can rally their team around a common cause and create a sense of unity and collaboration.

Developing Strategy

Strategic thinking is a critical skill for leaders. It involves the ability to analyze complex situations, anticipate future trends, and make informed decisions that align with the overall vision. Proficient leaders are skilled in strategic planning, setting goals, and creating action plans that guide their team towards success. They are able to adapt their strategies in response to changing circumstances, ensuring that their team remains focused and effective in achieving desired outcomes.

Hiring and Motivating the Right People

Leadership is not a solo endeavor. It requires assembling a team of talented individuals who share the same values and are motivated to contribute their best efforts. Proficient leaders excel in identifying and attracting top talent, ensuring a diverse mix of skills and perspectives within their team. They also possess the ability to inspire and motivate their team members, fostering a positive and productive work environment that drives performance and growth.

Focusing on Results

One of the hallmarks of effective leadership is a relentless focus on achieving results. Proficient leaders set high standards and expectations for themselves and their team, and they hold themselves accountable for delivering on their commitments. They create a culture of excellence by establishing clear performance metrics, providing regular feedback, and recognizing and rewarding achievements. By prioritizing results, proficient leaders drive continuous improvement and ensure the success of their team and organization.

Fostering Innovation

Innovation is a crucial factor for staying ahead in today's rapidly changing business landscape. Proficient leaders foster a culture of innovation by encouraging creativity, embracing new ideas, and providing opportunities for experimentation and learning. They create an environment where team members feel safe to take risks and think outside the box, leading to breakthrough solutions and driving organizational growth.

Leading Themselves

Leadership begins with self-leadership. Proficient leaders understand the importance of personal growth and development. They continuously strive to enhance their own skills, knowledge, and self-awareness. They demonstrate authenticity, integrity, and resilience, serving as role models for their team. By effectively leading themselves, proficient leaders inspire trust and confidence in others, creating a positive and empowering work environment.


While reading books and attending training courses are valuable resources for leadership development, true proficiency is achieved through real-life experience and continuous practice. Leaders who focus on building a unifying vision, developing strategy, hiring and motivating the right people, focusing on results, fostering innovation, and leading themselves are more likely to develop the skills necessary for effective leadership. By incorporating these areas of practice into their professional journey, leaders can enhance their capabilities and drive success for themselves and their organizations.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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