We live in an interesting era. One of the things that the social media phenomena has created is an ability for someone to be anything they desire in their imagination to be. With Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and even LinkedIn, the creator of the profile gets to decide what the observer is able to see about them. A lot of people I talk to are very intentional about what they put on the profiles they create. My family was together over the holiday and more than one time someone would be looking at their mobile device and remark, "I would never put that on Facebook."
What Do You Want Others to See?
Since I am writing on leadership, this phenomena of what people allow others to view about them, and what they do not allow others to see, makes me curious about how it might apply to leader development. For some of you, to admit you need to develop something brings you face to face with the reality that if you do not make a change you will be stuck where you are for a long time.
Another interesting impact on our development as leaders is the culture in which were are associated. This may be a formal organization where we are employed or a less formal network of acquaintances. No matter the structure, the culture of the organization will have an impact on leadership and its development.
Perspectives on Leader Development
I had an old friend call me just this morning and tell me about the organization she works in. The company really values leadership and sees it as a competitive advantage in the marketplace. However, the current culture dictates that personal development is the individual's responsibility. Much like the organization expects you to dress business casual when you come to work, but it isn't their job to take you shopping. This is an interesting take on development. You may work in an organization that takes a more proactive approach and provides classes to attend, or gives you a budget to spend on yourself for your own development. You may even work in an organization that doesn't care at all about your development, they just want the job done.
No matter what type of organization you work with, planning your own development as a leader is paramount to your improvement. We can not simply hope that we will improve or leave our development to chance.
Development is about:
- Growth as a person
- Finding a new skill
- Advancing yourself
- Creating something new and exciting
- Breaking out of the routine so that you become the person YOU desire to be
A Personal Example of Development
I recently started running half-marathons. 13.1 miles is a long way to run if you do not train and practice. My development process went something like this:
- Purchased a book on how to train for a 13.1-mile race
- Followed the week by week exercise plan
- Became very conscious of nutrition and water intake
- Focused both on strength training and cardiovascular improvement
- Kept the goal of finishing the race in mind as I trained
I can tell you for sure that if I had not trained and prepared for the 13.1 miles I would not have been able to finish the race.
So why is your development as a leader any different?
Some of you want to improve your position or your skills, yet you just are hoping that it will happen. Hope is a poor outcome predictor. Instead of hoping something will happen for us, lets practice and prepare for the day!
Being intentional with your development allows you to go to other leaders, and even followers of yours, asking them to partner with you in the creation of the more advanced you. This may be scary, but so is skydiving, or running your first half-marathon, or going out on your first date. Scary in an exhilarating sort of way. It demonstrates a healthy and respectful fear.
Sharing an aspect of your leader development plan allows three important things to occur:
- You are declaring that leading is important to you.
- You are showing humility.
- You are saying to others that stagnation is NOT OK with you.
Try This On For Size
Here is an example for how to engage others in your development:
While waiting for a meeting to start you are having a conversation with a peer of yours. You say, "Hey, I am trying to speak less in meetings, but when I do speak, I am going to try to be more impactful. My goal is to draw others to my ideas, rather than beat them into submission with my words. Could you observe me over the next few months and give me some feedback on how I am doing?"
Getting started with what you need to develop as a leader becomes a primary focus. The idea is to think about what you know about yourself, then what others might know about you.
Let me share a framework for you to think about, along with a couple of tools you can utilize to begin gathering data.
A Framework for Processing Your Development
One of the classic frames for thinking about your development is called the Johari Window. It is based upon what you observe in yourself and what others observe about you.
- What I know about me and what others observe in me.
- What I know about me and what others DO NOT observe in me.
- What I do not know about me and what others observe in me.
- What I do not know about me and what others do not know about me.
This framework can give you a place to reflect about your leadership.
Here is a picture of a tool I use in coaching others when we get feedback like this. I find it very instructional to think about the emotion that is being experienced when you are processing leadership feedback.
If you are collecting feedback I want to encourage you to pay attention to the accompanying emotion. Are you feeling sad or encouraged? Are you motivated or discouraged?
No matter the emotion you are feeling, focus on what is being said and how you can use it to improve your leadership.
I hope you find this framework for leader development interesting. I look forward to having some stimulating dialog with you around the topic of intentionally developing yourself as a leader.
As always, if you want help processing questions on your development as a leader, an introductory session with me is always complimentary.