As someone who loves to read, I can get leadership advice from the strangest places.
Several years ago I was casually looking through one of my wife’s piano study books and came across Emil Liebling. He had edited this particular book, and added a few comments of his own regarding his teaching philosophy.
I was blown away by what he said, and the absolute clarity and fluency of his advice. So I immediately wrote a post about him, and that piano book.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight (and a little more leadership experience), I realize how critical and influential that serendipitous moment was for me.
For the last three years, Mr. Liebling’s two core teaching philosophies have been in the forefront of my mind as I have worked on my leadership craft – and consequently, I now believe they are two things any leader absolutely, positively needs to do to teach effectively.
What are these two things?
- Teachers should never instruct “sans raison et sans plaisir“; translated, “without reason and without pleasure“.
Think about that one. Liebling said it best (from his perspective): “The instructor who does not have his task at his fingers’ ends, technically as well as intellectually, will never be able to inspire his students to their best efforts”. Leaders MUST be able to infuse focus AND fun into their teaching.
- “An ounce of demonstration is worth a pound of explanation”
OK, I understand that as you rise in the leadership ranks that you can’t possibly know how to do everybody’s job – but that’s not the point here. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and doing things, and setting a very conspicuous example. You are demonstrating that yes, I have a work ethic, yes, I have a passion for this work, and yes, you need to follow my lead on how I tackle this work. We are teaching HOW to work – and the only way to do that is to dive in with them.
The teaching element of leadership is so often overlooked and overshadowed by more glamorous things like vision, strategy and execution. But in the end, it is probably the most gratifying part of leadership, because when you do connect with someone this way (and by following Liebling’s advice), and they get it, they thrive and grow, and even surpass you, the resulting feeling of satisfaction is unlike anything else.
Because it gets you right in the heart. Hitting a metric just doesn’t do the same thing.
Thank you Emil Liebling for your sage advice. What makes it even more amazing was that he wrote it over 100 years ago. About playing the piano. But as anyone who’s learned to play that instrument knows, a great teacher is essential to mastery.
And THAT will be forever timeless.
PS: Here is the piano study book I’m referring to, in case you are interested.
And, don’t forget to download my FREE e-book, “Leadership From a Glass Half-Full – The 5 Lessons You Need To Learn Before You Jump Into The Pool”