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It may be true that leaders are born yet the corollary is also true… leadership is a skill that can be acquired through education and discipline. Born leaders and acquired leaders face the danger of losing their leadership mojo. Leadership is a matter of trust. Dependability is a critical element of trust and an Intentional Leadership Checklist that ensures reliability. A checklist is a crutch that supports dependability.

Why people who lead require an Intentional Leadership Checklist?

One reason is to avoid the dangers of slipping from unconscious competence to unconscious incompetence.  According to education experts, there are four stages of learning. Wikipedia lists them:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
  2. Conscious Incompetence – Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
  3. Conscious Competence – The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
  4. Unconscious Competence – The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Unconscious Incompetence

Studies show that the danger of unconscious competence is the first step in devolving into the costly errors caused by Unconscious Incompetence.  What is unconscious competence?

A new driver that is consciously competent, in other words driving intentionally, thinks to themselves,

  1. It is time to change lanes
  2. Put on my blinker
  3. Check my rear view mirror
  4. Check my side view mirror
  5. Change lanes

After doing this 100 times, they stop thinking about it. They are unconsciously competent. Yet, one day they forget to do step 4 and the lane change is uneventfully successful. The next lane change, they drop step 4 again, with no problem. Suddenly step 4 is no longer part of the regular program… the driver is now becoming unconsciously incompetent. That’s how accidents happen. This driver could use an Intentional Leadership Checklist for drivers.

That’s why the unconsciously incompetent driver just changed lanes right into your car.

My Coffee Making Story

I make and drink a pot of coffee every day I work from home (I drink a large cup of coffee with two shots of espresso while working outside the home). I know, I know… big shock… I’m hopped up on caffeine.

Now I’ve made coffee in my Cuisinart DGB-650BC Grind-and-Brew Thermal 10-Cup Automatic Coffeemaker, Brushed Metal (It makes the best coffee! Come on Cuisinart, send me some free goodies for this endorsement).

Coffee Brewing Intentional Leadership Checklist

  1. Put coffee beans in the grinder (currently hooked onMAYORGA COFFEE Café Cubano Roast ).
  2. Put the top on the grinder
  3. Put grinder in the coffee maker
  4. Put gold filter into filter cup
  5. Put the top on the filter cup
  6. Put the top on the coffee pot
  7. Put the pot in the coffee maker
  8. Get water
  9. Put water in the coffee maker
  10. Close top of the coffee maker
  11. Press go button

I’ve done this literally as in literally literally and not millennial-style figuratively literally, over 1,000 times.  Yet, I have skipped step 11, only to come back an hour later, wondering why there is no coffee. I have skipped step 6, only to walk into my kitchen flooded with coffee and coffee grinds (let me tell you, you don’t want to be in the kitchen when my lovely wife walks into that kitchen.

Leading people is like that. Stub your toe, spill your coffee on your shirt on the drive-in, your husband just called to tell you that the kid just crashed your car, and you walk into work, in a bad mood, angry and distracted… everyone reads the bosses body language… every move of the boss is amplified… word starts spreading… word in the break room is, “oh shit… we’re about to have layoffs.”

Add to the leadership checklist, “walk into work and project the confidence and respect you have for your team.”

What are the characteristics that define you as a leader?

Are you, Transparent, Courageous, Caring? Did you forget to be caring today? How about yesterday?

Great leaders are intentional, they are consciously competent and a Leadership Checklist is an aid to ensure that important characteristics, operating principles, and values are characteristics upon which your team can depend. Because if your team can’t depend on you… they will lose trust in you.

Want to talk leadership? Want to develop a checklist? Want to learn more? Press that little green button down there and schedule a complimentary, online, one-on-one coaching session. I look forward to speaking with you soon and if I miss the meeting… it’s because I’m mopping up coffee grinds from my kitchen before my wife gets home.

Update: I’m now making my coffee via French Press. It comes out better and there are fewer steps to screw me up.