When have you grown most as a leader?
We all experience moments of great challenge and change, and in those moments we often grow as leaders. But smaller, more incremental opportunities to grow occur all the time, and they are just as important to our leadership development. We just have to look for them.
That’s the message of this post and podcast from the Center for Creative Leadership, which urges current and aspiring leaders to take a critical look at their day-to-day responsibilities and proactively create growth opportunities by taking on or re-prioritizing tasks, making time for temporary assignments that stretch your skills or pursuing challenges outside the workplace.
There are many ways of unlocking opportunity with a proactive approach to your own career. I group them into four buckets: Introspection, outside opinions, reading and stretch assignments. Read on to see how each of these can inform and empower your own growth.
We all have some sense of the areas where we excel … and areas where we could stand to grow. Setting aside time and energy to take an honest look at your capabilities is a key aspect of leadership development.
I recommend journaling as a starting place. Sit down and examine your existing skillset as well as skills you’d like to develop. You can start by thinking about other professionals in your life who embody qualities you admire. What skills do they have that you would life to develop? Pick one per quarter to focus on. Consider questions like:
- When have you embodied this skill, and how did you do so?
- When have you not, and what could you have done differently?
Need other fodder for getting started on journaling? Try some of Henna Inam’s recommended questions to address while writing such as “What’s going well? What’s creating that?”
No matter how honest you are in looking at yourself, you’ll never see yourself and your leadership qualities the way others do. So you must ask for outside opinions.
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You can gain feedback through formal and informal processes. One formal process that upends the traditional performance review is the 360-degree review, which gathers feedback from not only superiors, but also direct reports, peers and others you might work with — potentially even customers or vendors. These can be invaluable for gaining a broad perspective on your effectiveness in professional relationships, but they must be handled with care to ensure the effects are not damaging to relationships or morale.
Another way you can get an outside perspective on your growth is to simply ask for it. You might select a peer inside or outside your organization. Meet or correspond regularly to discuss challenges and how you handle them. As with journaling, you can select a skill you’d like to develop and use it as an anchor for these conversations. Better yet — journaling and communicating with a peer on the same topic will generate synergy and even more rapid growth.
Don’t have a great option for peer feedback? Consider working with a coach to establish a forum for feedback, accountability and growth. Here’s how to select yours.
I’m a voracious reader, and I often recommend books to coaching clients and colleagues. Here are my favorites for current and aspiring leaders
- It’s All Politics by Kathleen Reardon
- The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate by Fran Hauser
- Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock
- Rest by Alex Pang
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- Start With Why by Simon Sinek
- The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael Watkins
- Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
- Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
Sometimes you don’t know what you’re best at — or what you need to work on — until you experience your capabilities in action. Stretch assignments will allow you to see gaps in your skillset, but they also can surprise you by revealing skills you didn’t know you had. They can also surprise your superiors by highlighting skills they didn’t know you had.
Volunteer for projects that fall outside your comfort zone. Develop and pitch ideas that could lead to new assignments. Step up when you see a need, and see where it takes you.
Put it all together
As you take on new tasks, keep tabs on how you’re doing by journaling and soliciting outside feedback, and keep reading as you discover new areas of opportunity. Combined, introspection, outside opinions, reading and stretch assignments can take your career to new heights.
What are your favorite tips for growing leadership potential?
Please share your experience in the comments!
Last updated September 11, 2018
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