As leaders, we’ve got a million things on our plate at any given time, right? There are reports, reviews, meetings, projects, customers, members, team issues, employee relations issues, something stuck in your teeth from lunch, and who knows what else.
Unfortunately, one thing that often gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list is your own development. Sure, if there’s a formal leadership development program that your organization makes time for you to attend, you’ll gladly go; but aside from that, it’s just really hard to find the time. And I get that. We all do, because we’ve all been there.
Below are some things you can do within the context of your life and work. You can squeeze most of these things in between other things, like when you have some time right after Complaining Employee #1 and right before trying desperately to get that fleck of pepper out from in-between your teeth (hey, it happens to the best of us).
1. Work on becoming more self-aware.
Without self-awareness, not only will you not feel the need to improve, but you also won’t see the areas in which you need improvement. Improving your self-awareness takes humility, and you have to be willing to ask yourself difficult questions and give honest answers to those questions. You might also consider asking others for help with this.
[bctt tweet=”Without real self-awareness, a leader will never truly grow. #leadership”]
2. Choke out your ego.
I used the phrase choke out your ego on purpose because ego is one of those things that doesn’t need much fuel to start growing out of control. If you start feeding your ego, it can quickly go from just a bit of pride to full-blown narcissism before you know it. We’ve all seen leaders like that, and it’s not a pretty sight.
One side effect of an out-of-control ego is that you have a very distorted view of yourself. That’s why an ego that is left unchecked makes self-awareness impossible. When those two are combined — when self-awareness is absent and ego is running rampant — folks will see very little need for them to invest in any sort of real development. They’ll likely see themselves as extraordinary leaders, with little to no need to improve.
[bctt tweet=”If your ego is out of control, self-awareness is impossible. #leadership”]
3. Read more.
Reading accomplishes multiple things at once. Reading exposes your mind to ideas outside your own. This is always a good thing. It also makes you think critically about those ideas. Again, this is a good thing. Additionally, reading about leadership, organizations, culture, and the like can show you areas in which you could and should develop. Lastly, reading in areas outside the business realm can awaken your imagination and creativity, both of which can then be employed within your role as a leader.
[bctt tweet=”The best #leaders view themselves as lifelong learners. #leadership “]
4. Ask for feedback, but only from people who will actually give you real feedback.
Resist the temptation to ask for feedback from folks who have only heard you tell them stories about what a great leader you are. Get feedback from folks who’ve seen you at less than your best, because it’s that feedback that can actually help you grown and improve as a leader. (And as a bonus, it helps you work on vulnerability, which I’ll mention momentarily.)
[bctt tweet=”Be vulnerable & humble enough to seek out even tough feedback. #leadership”]
5. Focus on others.
I know this may seem a bit counterintuitive, but hear me out (or read me out, as it were). Serving others is — or at least should be — at the core of your leadership. So refocusing yourself on serving others will, in fact, help you develop as a leader. One suggestion would be to ask your teammates how you can better serve them.
[bctt tweet=”Want to grow as a leader? Focus on serving others. #leadership”]
6. Clearly articulate your personal philosophy of leadership.
You’d be surprised how many folks haven’t really thought this through. What is your philosophy of leadership? Now before you answer, notice that I didn’t ask you to list a bunch of things you would do as a leader. It’s not a management to-do list. A philosophy of leadership speaks to who a leader is, not what a leader does. Articulating your personal philosophy of leadership will help you see where you need to grow and develop in order to better align with your leadership philosophy and fulfill your vision of what you believe a leader is.
[bctt tweet=”Why are you in #leadership? Your WHY is so important.”]
7. Take steps to be more vulnerable with your team.
Being vulnerable is so critical to so many aspects of leadership and organizational life. It’s the key to trust on a team, it’s a key to battling ego, it’s a key to embracing humility, and it’s a key to cultivating an environment where you and others are able to openly discuss learning opportunities with each other and help each other learn and grow together.
So take a deep breath and realize that there are some simple (though not necessarily easy) things you can do to accelerate your personal growth as a leader. Work on self-awareness, choke out ego, read more, ask for feedback, focus on others, nail down your philosophy of leadership, and take steps toward being more vulnerable with your team.