Personal development is a matter of choice. Leaders make the choice to develop themselves. Own the process.
- Find your sources of inspiration. It may come from a book or from direct observation. Keep an open mind about where the inspiration comes from.
- Think about how you will put your character into action to effect positive outcomes.
- Be realistic about your limitations. Some you can improve through education and experience. Others you will need to understand so you can work with those who have them.
- Be accountable for your actions, even when you make a mistake.
- Check your ego at the door as you hold it open for others’ accomplishments to shine.
- Find a colleague who can serve as your trusted advisor or personal coach.
- Make time for reflection. Choose a regular time and place to take stock of what is going on.
Leading peers can seem at times like herding cats. It may not be easy but it is necessary. Work on it!
- Communication your intentions and confirm them with your actions. In other words, do what you say you will do.
- Listen to what others are saying, not what you think they are saying. Be careful to listen to the whole story before you draw conclusions.
- Ask questions to elicit information and create avenues of inquiry. [Drop the prosecuting attorney act.]
- Defend your positions but be willing to act for the greater good. Compromise is healthy for the team.
- Lead by including others in your decision-making and your action steps.
- Be the go-to person for your team.
- Look for opportunities to make a positive difference.
- Focus on getting the work done rather than who gets credit for it.
- Show no tolerance for the blame game. It is the surest way to make enemies.
- Make your presence felt, that is, let people know that you are available to pitch in and help the team.
Leading Your Team & Organization
Remember that people will value what you do over what you say. Focus on actions more than words.
- Adopt the “what not how” style of management. Give people an assignment and let them figure out how to do it for themselves. Make yourself available to provide assistance when asked.
- Regard dissent as an opportunity to explore alternatives. Dissent is the best protection against groupthink.
- When you make a hard decision, put the organization first, not yourself.
- Praise your team when it perseverance in the face of adversity. Be available to support them as well as be their champion.
- Look on the light side. Life is tough enough without acting seriously all of the time. Allow for some levity.
- Make a habit of meeting and mingling with all levels of your organization. Listen more than you speak.
- Consider roadblocks as opportunities for learning as well as opportunities for you to lead.
Personal leadership is the ability to move from the “I can” to the “I will” in order to make a positive difference. To improve your personal leadership, consider:
- Look for opportunities for you to make a positive difference by applying what you are good at doing to what needs doing next.
- Understand that you earn credibility when you demonstrate competence.
- Be available to help others do their work. [But first ask their permission to help; otherwise they may resent your intervention.]
Character is what you do when you don’t think others are watching. A leader’s character is focused on personal example: what you do matters more than what you say. To improve your leadership character, consider:
- Hold yourself accountable for your actions. Expect the same for others you lead.
- Align what you say with what you do. Remember people watch what you do more than what you say.
- When trouble strikes, make certain you put it into perspective. Be honest but do not adopt the “woe is me” attitude. Speak up for your team by being present and accounted for.
Vision is an aspiration. It is a leader’s responsibility to lead people in the right direction. To improve your leadership vision skills, consider:
- Look for ways to inspire your team by relating what you think is possible to what you think the team can do.
- Find ways to create buy-in among your team by relating organizational goals to team goals.
- Encourage direct reports to figure out the best ways to align what the team does to what the organization needs to do.
Leadership strategy is comprised of the action steps you will take to transform vision into reality. To improve your leadership strategy, consider:
- Link the purpose of your organization to the individual contributions your employees make.
- Find ways to bolster the confidence of others by acknowledging their achievements.
- Allow people to disagree with you before important decisions are made. But once the decision is made, hold people accountable for following through on the decision.
- When you disagree with a decision made by your boss, keep your disappointment to yourself. Do not allow your point of view to interfere with your team’s ability to accomplish their tasks.
Communication may be the single most important leadership behavior. Leadership communication is the ability to speak with an focused mind and listen with an open heart. To improve your ability to communicate, consider:
- Speak from a position of knowledge. Keep your messages clear, concise and consistent.
- Listen with an open mind and open heart.
- Check for understanding. [Make certain people are clear in what you say.]
- Read reactions of people who listen to you. [If they look bored, they are; so stop talking.]
People want to be noticed for what they do. Recognition must be meaningful and timely. To improve your recognition skills, consider:
- Make recognition a habit. Find ways to say thank you to your employees.
- Express gratitude for the contributions of others.
- Find ways to recognize people in ways that are meaningful to them: e.g. merit pay, bonus, compensatory time, development opportunities, etc.
The ability to manage one’s time is a reflection of a well ordered mind and a disciplined approach to business. To improve your ability to manage your time strategically, consider:
- Prioritize your goals. Make certain your work goals are in alignment with team and corporate goals. [Otherwise you are spinning your wheels.]
- Translate goals into action steps.
- Develop a schedule and respect it, but not so much that you cannot change it when important developments occur.
- Remain flexible but focused on your priorities.
Leaders are recruited for their brainpower but they succeed because of their power to connect with and influence others. To improve your ability to connect with others, consider:
- When things become heated, take a deep breath before you speak.
- Learn to make small talk with people in positions of authority over you.
- Invest time in sharing your expertise with others who are interested in what you do.
Change is part of the organic life cycle. Leaders must learn to anticipate and embrace it. To improve your ability to manage change, consider:
- Prepare yourself for change by tuning your antennae to outside stimuli, e.g. read much, observe more, and write down things that interest you about change.
- Network with people in your field. Find ways to stay current with trends in your field.
- Adopt – and put into practice – the mindset that glass is half-full; e.g., be positive in how you communicate and how you act.
Leaders must learn to let go in order to lead most effectively. To improve your ability to supervise, consider:
- Find ways to delegate responsibility along with authority to people who are strong contributors.
- Train yourself to observe more than to engage one on one.
- Do not allow small problems to become larger ones because you failed to intervene.
- Let others take the reins. This is a good way to groom people for greater levels of responsibility.
- Divide your time into three categories: planning ahead, taking care of now, and putting out fires. [Ideally the less time on the latter, the better.]
Every leader needs to make time to put things into perspective. Reflection is a valuable skill for leader to practice. To improve your ability to reflection, consider:
- Make time to reflect on regular basis. It is necessary to do it regularly in order to benefit.
- Consider a special place to reflect. It could be a favorite chair, or a favorite walk. [Courtesy of John Maxwell].
- Keep a regular journal of your leadership actions. After a few months you will be surprised at how much you have learned.
Adapted from The Leader’s Pocket Guide: 101 Indispensible Tools, Tips and Techniques for Any Situation (AMACOM 2012)