George says that Mastery is not a goal or a destination, but a process. He feels that today’s world (the book was written in the early ’90s) is focused on getting “immediate gratification, instant success, and fast, temporary relief”. This focus leads people to just aim always for the next goal and forget the fact that the master’s journey involves “relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases than that which preceded it”.
Becoming a good leader is also a Master’s journey. You don’t get things right all of the time and you have to just keep practicing your leadership skills before you advance to the next step in your leadership journey.
Do most new leaders realize this? I don’t think so!
Newly promoted leaders / managers assume that they have achieved a peak in their professional journey and become complacent during the course of time. Here are George’s “Five Master Keys“, which would help leaders continue their Master’s journey:
Key 1- Instruction:
This refers to learning from a teacher / instructor to hone your skills. Even though the book says that “the self-taught person is on a chancy path”, I strongly feel that you can learn a lot as a leader through blogs, books, social media and of course through teachers / coaches. Not having money is not a constraint for learning today as there are so many people sharing knowledge with you on the internet.
Key 2 – Practice:
In this book’s context, the word “Practice” is not a verb, but a noun – “Practice is the path upon which you travel, just that“. What this implies is that a leader just travels through his/her leadership journey without worrying about the rewards or results. The journey, by itself, is the reward.
Key 3 – Surrender:
Surrendering is all about willing to be a learner throughout the journey. Nobody is an expert on everything! There is always the next stage. There is always a new aspect or perspective that you have never seen. In George’s words, this key involves “surrendering your own hard-won proficiency from time to time in order to reach a higher or different level of proficiency.“
Key 4 – Intentionality:
Having the vision, the thought, the goal, the intention is important for a leader to continue to be on his journey towards mastery. One of my favorite quotes from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is “All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation of all things.“. Without the intention, there is no way that a leader can advance on his/her Master’s journey. “Intentionality fuels the Master’s journey. Every master is a master of vision“.
Key 5 – The Edge:
The Edge involves pushing yourself off your normal limits and trying untested waters. Leaders who go to the edge, do so with the complete awareness that they are pushing themselves beyond safe limits. However, George warns that one can go to the edge only after he/she has opened different gates in the master’s journey using the above four keys. And after the edge, a master goes back “to the never ending path again“.
Leaders who are on their Master’s journey, would inspire their followers / team members to travel on this journey too. The more masters we have, the more effective an organization / community / family would be.