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A Work In Progress

Published April 30, 2018

My favorite drummer is Neil Peart of RUSH. He’s also my favorite lyricist. I’m hard pressed to think of another musician whose words have made me think as hard as his have. He’s also an author and his writings have inspired me in the same way.

Several years ago, I wrote a post about leadership lessons I had learned through the words of wisdom that Neil Peart has shared through his lyrics and his writings. I took those words and extrapolated them into those leadership lessons. It wasn’t a big leap to do this. They fit like a glove.

This article pays tribute to that post, but I’m taking a different look at leadership again, again inspired by Neil Peart and his lyrics and writings as an author. Many years ago he developed a project called “A Work In Progress” which chronicles his “new’ approach to playing the drums after 20 years for the recording of RUSH’s sixteenth album “Test For Echo”.

Basically, the title of the project was meant to show that even after playing drums for decades, he had more to learn. He took lessons. He completely changed his approach to the drums. He changed how he set up his drums. He changed how he sat at his drum kit. He changed the end of the sticks he hit the drums with. And he took drum lessons for the first time.

I realized that as a leader, I am still a work in progress as well. I have been blessed to lead at a high level in several organizations, experience some success, and make an impact on the lives of the people I’ve worked with. But I’m still a work in progress. I have more to learn and more to do, and staying hungry and humble is the key to continuing the process of learning and getting better. I’m learning how to approach conversations differently. I’m learning how to ask better questions. I’m learning how to navigate difficult personalities differently. I’m taking coaching classes. I’m honing my craft. I’m becoming a better leader.

No matter what we’ve learned along the leadership journey there is more to do. More to learn. More to figure out. We’re never done leading and we’re never done learning. We’re also never on the leadership journey alone, or at least we shouldn’t be. Having a teacher, a mentor, someone who has been farther than we have been, who has seen things we haven’t seen, brings untold value to our journey and we’d be wise to embrace the opportunity to study under a master teacher. A mentor.

Being confident enough to inspire a team of people to greatness, and being humble enough to realize you don’t have it all figured out is the secret combination to becoming a leader worth following. As a leader greatness should elude you, and that’s good news, because once you think you have achieved greatness you aren’t as hungry. You aren’t humble. And you simply aren’t as effective. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you. Inspire you. And make you better.

For me, I am always trying to learn new things about leadership. I have my core abilities, and I know my strengths. I am confident about the direction I’m headed, but I intentionally put myself in a position to be inspired by other leaders. I’m constantly reading, listening to podcasts, and writing.

As a leader I fully realize that I always have the opportunity to get better, and that is incredibly humbling, inspiring, and encouraging all at the same time. May we all stay hungry and stay humble.