Great leaders come in many shapes and sizes, but one trait they all seem to have in common is their ability to motivate and inspire others. While this should go without saying, motivation and inspiration within the ranks provides organizations with a very useful by-product: the increased potential for business growth.
When employees are inspired by and committed to a company’s mission, they are 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 may face.
While organizations can still prepare the next wave of leaders to act as previous generations retire, there are things you can do in the meantime to take control of your own leadership development. Even if you are currently in a leadership role, you should explore opportunities to further develop your skills to drive business growth.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
1. Surround yourself with fellow leaders to help each other solve problems.
Making learning a priority will certainly help you grow as a leader. Leadership training is generally a solid investment. If dedicated training isn’t for you, even 15 to 30 minutes a day devoted to reading a book, reading an article, or listening to a leadership podcast can increase your knowledge of various processes and procedures. Sometimes you need an outside view to accelerate your development.
“Business leaders can sometimes have tunnel vision. Working for years at one company or in one industry can lead to outdated industry standards,” says Greg Alexander, founder of Collective 54, the first mastermind community for professional service providers. “By collaborating with colleagues in a mastermind community, business leaders are exposed to different ways of thinking and innovative solutions. After all, colleagues are not suppliers or sponsors looking to monetize a relationship. Instead, they try to one to teach another in a safe environment.”
Leaders need other leaders to question their assumptions and push the boundaries of what to expect of themselves. It’s all about finding the right circle of influence to really understand what you’re capable of.
“That’s why joining groups like YPO, Vistage, EO or Collective 54 has become so popular,” explains Alexander. “Learning from people in similar companies and roles, with common problems and opportunities, provides unique value to business leaders.”
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 it is giving or receiving, however, it is not always a comfortable scenario. Just the thought of feedback can make even the most experienced professionals a little anxious. Both sides are in a vulnerable position.
Getting better at receiving feedback takes more than just asking someone, “How am I?” Such an open question leaves too much room for interpretation. Even if you’ve worked with a mentor or participated in a mastermind community, you may hear nothing more than broad strokes about your achievements in response. You should be more explicit and specific in your request for feedback.
It’s also important to make it clear that you want to hear honest feedback and then state the reason for your request. You may want to learn more about your effectiveness in conducting a meeting or whether your approach to a challenge made the most sense.
It all comes down to the art of listening. If you find yourself getting defensive, take a step back and ask yourself why. Remember that you are in control of your reaction. This is constructive and cordial. After hearing the feedback, turn your attention to what you can improve. What has been said that you can put into action?
3. Set a time for reflection and strategy.
Reflection is often seen as looking back at where you’ve been. While it’s part of the practice, it also involves taking stock of where you are now and where you want to be in the future – and it’s an essential part of leadership growth. Without reflection, you’d be paralyzed as you try to set benchmarks for yourself and your team. You also lack the resources to really assess your performance or that of employees.
Reflection does not happen by itself. You have to make time for it. You also need to create a process for such an act. If you have to put pen to paper, do it. If you need a quiet place, find one. When you’re ready, start asking yourself questions: ‘What have I learned so far? Have I achieved my learning goals? Did I use what I learned? What do I want to learn next? How do I want to learn it?”
One thing to keep in mind in 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 way to get to what you want to achieve. Dig into the weeds – detail all aspects of your strategy (ie learning opportunities, next steps, potential obstacles, timetable, and so on). From there, it’s all about putting the plan into action by spending time achieving each goal.
Since you are in a leadership role, you probably know that the best form of training and development is one that is tailored to the individual. It goes without saying that you should tailor your personal leadership training to reflect self-reflection and constructive criticism from peers in similar roles so that it truly reflects your abilities and experiences. It’s just a matter of making time, not only for learning, but also for finding opportunities to improve your skills.