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Posted by Steve Arneson, Leadership Consultant, Arneson Leadership Consulting.
Steve Arneson is a nationally recognized speaker, executive coach, and leadership consultant. He founded Arneson Leadership Consulting in 2007 to provide practical solutions for individuals and companies looking to enhance their leadership impact.
Raising Your Game as a Leader
How can you develop your own leadership skills?
As a leader, you have the potential to improve - but you have to work at it. You have to want to get better if you’re going to become a more effective leader. Why is this important? Because as a leader, you have an opportunity to help your people grow and develop. But to positively impact others, you have to be willing to keep learning and growing yourself. You have to model working on your own development.
Fortunately, it is possible to get a little better each day as a leader. If you’re willing to put in the time, you really can learn and apply new skills on a consistent basis. And given today’s pace of change, you can’t wait for the organization to bring leadership training to you; you have to work on your own game. You can’t rely solely on your boss for mentoring; you need to take charge of your own growth as a leader. All you need is the willingness to listen to feedback and be reflective about how you can improve. In short, you have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Here are five ways you can make yourself a better leader:
1. Find out how you’re showing up as a leader. If you’re going to improve your leadership, it helps to know what others think of your skills and behaviors. Before you scope out what areas to work on, ask the people around you for input. How are they experiencing your leadership? What’s working for them? What’s not working? How do they feel about your ability to guide the team? What suggestions do your colleagues have for taking your skills to the next level? If you’re sincere about soliciting and listening to their feedback, they’ll tell you what you need to work on.
2. Add something new to your game.Next, if you’re serious about developing yourself, you need to do more than just leverage your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Those are just the skills you have today - if you really want to improve, you have to continually add new elements to your leadership toolkit. Do you have a specific plan for adding new skills? In what areas do you need to focus? How about adding some new leadership techniques like coaching, leading change, fostering innovation or broadening your peer leadership? What about creating some space for yourself by adapting some new time management skills?
3. Get curious about the world around you. Now that you’ve added some new skills to your game, it’s time to expand your horizons. Developing yourself as a leader also means stretching your point of view, and seeing beyond the borders of your office (and company). How well are you staying up with new developments in your field? Do you have a firm grasp of your organization’s strategy? How well do you know your competitors? What about looking beyond your industry or around the globe? How about learning about cultures other than your own? The world may be shrinking, but you need to go the other way - you need to broaden your perspective.
4. Step out of your comfort zone. Once you’ve expanded your world view and stretched the boundaries of your leadership, it’s time to take some risks with your development. How about taking a more proactive stance with your boss about your next assignment or role? What about joining a professional network, or improving your speaking and presentation skills? Do you have trouble admitting mistakes, or seeing things from another perspective? You have a lot to gain by stepping outside your comfort zone and adapting different leadership behaviors. Pick out the one thing that you’ve always avoided as a leader, and bring it inside your core set of skills.
5. It’s not about you.In the end, leadership is about the people you lead… it’s not about you. Which begs the question: Is this how you’re looking at leadership? Are you spending your time on the right big things, and is one of those things people development? Are you going out of your way to raise the profile of your employees? What if you volunteered your leadership skills to a nonprofit organization? How about teaching a class at the corporate university? Finally, what is your plan for succession - how are you preparing the leader who will come behind you? These are the questions that will help you make the transition from -it’s about me’ to -it’s about others.’
If you manage other people, you’ve been given a great gift - the opportunity to change people’s lives. If you’re going to make that kind of a difference, however, you need to take your leadership skills to a new level. That means taking control of your own learning agenda. Start by creating a customized leadership development plan - one that says: “I care about becoming a better leader.”
Steve Arneson is a leadership coach, speaker, and the author of Bootstrap Leadership: 50 Ways to Break Out, Take Charge, and Move Up.
Contact Steve at [email protected]