Great leaders come in many shapes and forms, but one trait they all appear to share in common is their ability to motivate and inspire others. Though this should go without saying, motivation and inspiration within the ranks offers organizations a very useful byproduct: the increased potential for business growth.
When employees are inspired by and engaged in the mission of a company, they’re more than willing to take action and find creative ways to achieve their goals. However, the 2021 Global Leadership Forecast found that only 11% of HR leaders say they have the leadership talent they need to grow their business—an all-time low. Many believe the reason has a lot to do with the unpredictability of the challenges a business might face.
While organizations could still be preparing the next wave of leaders to step up as previous generations retire, there are things you can do to take control of your own leadership development in the meantime. Even if you’re currently in a leadership role, you should explore opportunities to further develop your skills to encourage business growth.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
1. Surround yourself with fellow leaders to help each other problem-solve.
Making learning a priority can certainly help you grow as a leader. Leadership training is generally a solid investment. If dedicated training isn't for you, then even just 15 to 30 minutes a day devoted to reading a book, perusing an article, or listening to a podcast on leadership can build your knowledge of different processes and procedures. Sometimes, you'll need an outside perspective to accelerate your development.
“Business leaders can have tunnel vision at times. Working at one firm, or in one industry, for many years can breed outdated industry norms," says Greg Alexander, founder of Collective 54, the first mastermind community for professional services firms. "By working with peers in a mastermind community, business leaders get exposed to different ways of thinking and innovative solutions. After all, peers are not vendors, or sponsors, looking to monetize a relationship. Rather, they’re seeking to learn from one another in a safe environment.”
Leaders need other leaders to challenge their assumptions and push the boundaries of what to expect from themselves. It’s all about finding the right circle of influence to truly understand what you’re capable of.
2. Get better at receiving feedback.
It’s no secret that feedback can be valuable, as it offers you a unique opportunity to learn and increase your self-awareness. Whether on the giving or receiving end, however, it isn’t always a comfortable scenario. The mere thought of feedback can make even the most seasoned of professionals feel a bit anxious. Both parties are in a vulnerable position.
Getting better at receiving feedback takes more than merely asking someone, “How am I doing?” Such an open-ended question leaves too much room for interpretation. Even if you’ve been working with a mentor or participating in a mastermind community, you may hear nothing more than broad strokes about your performance as a response. You need to be more explicit and specific in your request for feedback.
It's also important to make clear that you want to hear honest feedback, and then express the reason for your request. Perhaps you want to learn more about your effectiveness in holding a meeting or whether your approach to a challenge was the most logical.
It all comes down to the art of listening. Should you feel yourself becoming defensive, take a step back and ask yourself why. Remember, you are in control of your response. This is meant to be constructive and cordial. After hearing the feedback, turn your attention to what you can improve upon. What was said that you can put into action?
3. Establish a time for reflection and strategy.
Reflection is often thought of as looking back on where you’ve been. While a part of the practice, it also entails taking stock of where you are currently and where you want to be in the future—and is an essential component of leadership growth. Without reflection, you would be hamstrung when trying to set benchmarks for yourself and your team. You’d also lack the means to truly assess your performance or that of employees.
Reflection doesn’t happen on its own. You need to set aside time for it. You also need to create a process for such an act. If you need to put pen to paper, do so. If you need a quiet spot, find one. Once you’re ready, start asking yourself questions: “What have I learned so far? Did I reach my learning goals? Did I use what I’ve learned? What do I want to learn next? How do I want to learn it?”
One thing to keep in mind during times of reflection is to never compare yourself to others. Only then can you really make a realistic plan or strategy for further leadership growth. Use all those questions you’ve asked yourself to develop some new goals, and then figure out the best means for reaching what you want to achieve. Get into the weeds—detailing all aspects of your strategy (i.e., learning opportunities, next steps, potential obstacles, timeframe, and so on). From there, it’s all about putting the plan into action by dedicating time to achieving each goal.
Being in a leadership role, you likely know that the best form of training and development is one that’s personalized to the individual. It only stands to reason that you should tailor your personal leadership training through self-reflection and constructive criticism from peers in similar positions—making it really about your abilities and experiences. It’s just a matter of setting aside the time not only for learning but for finding opportunities to enhance your skills.
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