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It is belief that matters

By Leadership - Posted on 19 February 2011

BeliefToday morning as we were doing our usual weekend morning walk at the beach, I saw a young girl learning to ride a bicycle. I guess it was her father who was with her. He was holding the bicycle as she rode and was running along with her. He was constantly reassuring her that she can balance on her own. That struck a chord in me.

Riding a bicycle needs skills. More than those skills it is the belief in you that matters. The dad was actually focusing on nurturing the girls belief system.

When I was young, my father ran along with me on the bike till I believed I could balance. My brother took a radically different approach. He hired a bike that had a smaller wheel diameter so that he could plant his feet comfortably on the ground whenever he lost balance. Initially he never used the pedal but used a jog like motion while he was sitting on the bike to keep going. He was actually running while he was seated in his bike. He started pedalling when he believed he could balance. There are others who use support wheels till they believe they can balance.

I think there is an amazing parallel in leadership. It is the belief that you can lead which matters more than the skills. People spend time, effort and money on building skills and yet have difficulty in delivering leadership effectively. The decisions you take as a leader must be timely so that you do not lose balance - just like when riding a bicycle. You must be bold to take some of those decisions. Sometimes you have to go with your gut and in other times you have to fight your gut.

With experience, the belief gets stronger and the required skills are usually delivered involuntarily. Fear of failure usually slows down the pace of learning and effective practice. When thinking about leadership development, should we focus more on nurturing the skills or nurturing the belief? 

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