Through my work in the field of learning and development and my own life experiences I am well aware that it takes years of learning, practice and experience to develop and strengthen the attitude, knowledge and skills required to excel at leadership. As leaders we must continuously learn and improve.
Fortunately, leadership development activities are readily available to those of us seeking to better ourselves as leaders. The many options include formal education, community leadership initiatives, training classes, workshops, seminars, webinars, online classes, books (a search of leadership books on a popular online retailer’s website produced 110,742 results), self-study courses, experiential learning, coaching, taking on a challenging work assignment, volunteering in the community, and more.
A few years ago, I enlisted a professional coach to help me navigate a leadership challenge. I discussed with my coach what I wanted to accomplish and we scheduled meetings with intervals between sessions for practice. At the conclusion of each session my coach assigned three specific techniques I was to tryout before our next meeting. We began each subsequent session with a conversation about my experience using the techniques. The coaching experience was positive, pleasant and effective. The accountability to practice was invaluable and I learned several techniques which have served me well in the years that have passed since I utilized coaching to enhance my ability to lead. What made coaching an effective leadership development activity for me? Many things, including that I had identified the key developmental need I wanted to address, I was working towards specific goals, I knew I could benefit from the experience, the sessions took place over a period of time, I practiced, and I knew I had achieved what I wanted to accomplish.
Whether you’re just starting out or have a long history of leadership experience, you’re likely to engage in leadership development activities over the course of your career to grow and improve. Regardless of the type of leadership development activities you choose, you can make the most of your investment by identifying the developmental need you want to address, establishing and working toward specific goals, practicing over a period time, and evaluating your progress.
Nobody is perfect and becoming the best leader you can be requires continuing learning and development. Life is a teacher and learning is a lifelong endeavor!
Mary Moon/Executive Director, Community Advancement, Butler Community College and Leadership Butler Class of 1990