Being an excellent leader is all about continuing to learn, grow and experience change in many facets of what you do. It’s not just being better at one thing, but becoming better at lots of things–one step at a time. Dan Rockwell shares 4 essentials in leadership development.

Originally published by Dan Rockwell

The great hotel founder, J. Willard Marriott, once said, “You can’t improve 1000% in one thing, but you can improve 1% in a thousand things.”

Too often leaders look for a single experience to vault them to success; the unique moment that qualifies them as a complete leader. What they misunderstand is that true leadership development happens through a process of accumulating leadership skills patiently, yet persistently. 

1. Build four critical relationships.

Every leader must achieve results for their boss, their peers, their direct reports, and their customers. As you develop your action plan, identify and focus on the skills and behaviors that provide what each relationship values and needs. 

2. Start small; be persistent.

From small, seemingly simple things, major gains occur. Real and lasting improvements in one’s skill level and leadership talents are developed one step at a time. Patient, persistent effort over time is required to experience gains in one’s ability to lead. 

3. Learn by doing.

Leadership development does not happen during a single event or training session. Instead, leaders must commit to practicing their leadership skills every day.

Leadership development is a journey of insight, action, and reflection. 

4. Improve one or two specific behaviors at a time.

Key leadership skills and behaviors include a range of essential leadership elements such as strategic thinking, decision making, coaching, change management, and more. When pursuing your leadership development, focus on one or two of these at a time.

You experience more profound success when you aim to accumulate skills over time. 


When you reflect on your own leadership skills, what is one change you can make that will most improve your overall effectiveness? 

Would your boss or your direct reports agree? 

What small action can you take every day this week to improve and practice this leadership skill?