Leaders have a lot to learn. Which raises the question, how do they get it all done?
Here are three bottom line tips to successfully develop yourself as a leader.
# 1 – Be patient. If you’re a success-oriented person and your boss gives you feedback, you’re going to want to address everything right away, to get it right as soon as possible.
But there’s so much to learn, and it takes time to establish all the personal strength habits and ingrain all the effective leadership skills. This isn’t the kind of thing you can push through the eye of the needle. You may understand the concept quickly, but improved work habits don’t happen overnight.
#2 – Own your own learning. No one can make you learn. Attending a course on effective leadership skills doesn’t automatically transmit the skills to you. All an instructor can do is instruct – deliver information. It’s up to you – and no one else – to learn from it. You really are in charge of your own learning, your own leadership development.
Understand that your ultimate training ground is not in the classroom. It’s in the workplace. So find people around you who can coach you and mentor you. Find people who are willing to give you feedback – and listen to them. Put yourself in challenging situations and find people who can help talk you through the process of learning from these experiences. Learn to coach yourself.
#3 – Focus on improving one area at a time. Yes, there’s a lot to learn. But the most important secret of all is to concentrate on improving one skill or strength at a time. If you’re a hard charger, you probably have a lot of self-development goals. You may feel that the way to quick success is to tackle all of them at once.
But imagine that you play basketball and you belong to a league. Say your weakest area is shooting free throws. So one of your team mates comes up to you in practice and says, “You know, you don’t have your elbow in the right position.” The problem is, it feels awkward when you try to do what he says. But you try it anyway while he watches.
But then he says, “You also want to let your middle finger be your guide to the basket.” That seems like a basic technique, but now you’re working on two things at once, and they’re both awkward.
Sensing your desire to excel, he adds: “You don’t set yourself up for the shot the same way each time. You gotta have a routine, man. Stroke it the same way every time.” Again, good advice! You know if you could master all these techniques, you’d make most of your free throws. But it’s too much all at once! Everything feels awkward, you don’t know how to fit them together into a fluid activity, and you don’t know what to focus on.
The smart money is to focus on just one thing and practice it until it starts to feel comfortable. At that point you won’t have fully mastered the technique, but at least it’s not a problem anymore. Then you can focus on the next thing.
If you try to implement five or six changes in your life all at once, you won’t be able to give any one thing the concentrated effort it needs. You’ll dilute your efforts, and in the end nothing much will happen. You won’t get the improvement you hope for.
It’s essential to be your own best trainer, and recognize that it’s a journey. You can develop effective leadership skills and strengths over time, if you apply yourself. Just remember that it’s going to take patience, you’ll need to take responsibility for your learning, and above all, you’re going to have to focus. One thing at a time – that’s where the magic is.