Leadership and Repetition

For a seamless leader, repetition is a core element in the development of character and leadership competence. No skill of real value is possessed without the application of much repetition. Every skill we learn is the result of practice and experience. Think of learning to read and write, to drive a car, to speak a new language, to master a sport or to learn to paint.

It is a human frailty to resent repetition. Without this ability we will not be able to reach our full potential.

According to leadership psychologist, Colin Wilford, “all behaviour is made possible by a myriad of electrical pathways in the brain. As we learn new tasks and make them habits we create a new sequence of electrical impulses in the brain that continue to follow the same pathway in the same order. Changing the pathways/habits once set is not easy, but it is refreshingly possible as we overcome our failings and turn them into strengths”. No matter what the skill we want to acquire, it takes many hours, sometimes thousands, of repetitive practice sessions in order to acquire that skill.

Leadership ability is also subject to the universal law of repetition

Repetition is also a core element of the development of negative character, values and actions. Consider the modern tendency to rely on the TV for entertainment.  Our modern society is hooked on entertainment. We literally sit down and expect to be entertained for hours at a time, day after day, week after week, life time after life time. Something is wrong here! It reminds of the quotation: ‘Insanity is when you do the same things over and over yet expect different results’. It is not entertainment as such that is negative. To relax and rest is a crucial element of a balanced life style. The real danger is being hooked on the entertainment syndrome.

Some of us avidly read everything we can about ‘good leadership’ without changing our negative habits. We are caught up in the entertainment syndrome. Like a drug, we demand more and more stimulated ideas on leadership and human behaviour without waking up to the universal need to consistently practice sound universal principles that govern the skills and freedom that we want to acquire

We become that which we repeatedly keep on doing. This applies to both positive and negative acquisitions. We become a seamless leader when we practice over and over again universal principles that free us from barriers to our full potential.

Theoretical understanding should always be followed up with actual application or it loses its power to make a difference. Our growth as seamless leaders can be tracked by our many small but incisive repetitive actions of learning and practicing that which we have learnt.

Obviously all kinds of repetition are not a good thing. What kind of repetition are we talking about in this article?

  1. True principles. Seamless behaviour is behaviour based on universal principles that we believe in. Recently a friend of the family shared her deeply hurt feelings as a result of supposedly unkind words spoken by a mutual friend. Listening to her it was clear that these feelings were not going to simply go away. They tend to grow into resentment and enmity. In order to restore the relationship I had to follow universal principles taught over many years. One principle is that of not making snap judgement of the other person’s motives and character. Also that when we hear a negative feeling expressed towards another person, chances are high that there is at least a degree of misunderstanding involved. These principles were mentioned in a previous article on the Contact Factor. I spoke to the third party and it turned out that the misunderstanding was in fact just that – a complete misjudgement of a few words spoken in personal pain. We need to follow and obey good principles time and time again. That is what all seamless leaders do. Always be on the lookout for the remaining universally applicable principles and laws to establish our standards and values.
  2. Valid process. All movement in life occurs through process. As we discover processes that work for us, and as we practice such processes over and over again, they become engrained into our characters. Our personal and leadership confidence grows in proportion to our trust in processes that work for us. These processes do not necessarily have to be complicated or sophisticated. On the contrary, often they may be simple common sense consisting of patient listening and looking carefully at all the possible negatives as well as possible positives before making decisions. Some processes require technical skills to master. Some simply require patience and faith.
  3. Learning a new skill or habit. As mentioned above, all new skills or habits require considerable repetition before we can feel confident of mastery. We should be careful of the ‘boring syndrome’ that so often stops our progress. Disciplined repetition is often the only way to success.
  4. Discerning the difference between person and principles. It takes courage to continually try to separate offended feelings and correct principles. Good parents find that as they grow in the discipline of separating feelings from principle, actions from person, or the ‘sins’ of the child from the infinite worth of that child, they  enter another dimension of love and power to influence for the good. This principle applies fully to leadership in the work place.
  5. Repetition and freedom. We speak easily of freedom in our democratic country. Freedom is not just a spirit of entitlement. Having rights under law and our constitution does not make us free. Freedom is an attribute of heart, mind and soul that has to be worked for. To be free to smile under severe work pressure takes much practice and courage. Freedom can only be enjoyed after much repetition of good principles, processes and values. Freedom is about voluntary compliance to the principles that govern specific freedoms. Freedom is a result of obeying principles of freedom, not an entitlement such as political rights
  6. Repetition and values. The law of repetition also applies to our values, aspirations and objectives. We need to repetitively ponder them. People who develop the habit of voluntarily and repetitively studying good books and material often develop precious habits and allegiance to universal values. The same principle applies to leadership excellence. We need to repetitively ponder our allegiance to our values and aspirations; for our self, for our families and for our leadership team. This is not just an annual exercise.  

Repetition can be our greatest friend or it can become our greatest enemy.

This article appeared in the:

The Workplace

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on adriaan@leadershipplatform.com for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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