Reach for higher – be a great leader

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Leadership is complex and demands are high. How do you continue to elevate your leadership game? What can you do to become a great leader?

Great leaders set a compelling vision. They develop, inspire, and motivate people. They actively listen and provide regular feedback. They recognize and reward talent. They work across organizational boundaries, handle conflict, make decisions, and they deliver results. Great leaders have a learning mindset. They continuously develop themselves and others.

The best leaders make all of this look effortless, but the great ones I’ve worked with are committed to getting better.

Much like physical fitness, you cannot neglect your leadership fitness and expect optimal results. The development choices you make will have an impact on your performance and it will also impact those you lead. It is easy to become consumed with all the demands that come with being a leader. After all, you have got a job to do and results to deliver.

What winds up getting neglected is a focus on development. Ongoing development – the learning, commitment, resilience, and effort – is often what separates great leaders from everyone else. However, when it comes to leadership development, the two greatest challenges facing leaders today are 1) finding the time to focus on their development and 2) determining where to start.

Today’s leaders simply have too many competing priorities. Making matters more challenging: as we move up the leadership ladder, demands increase and discretionary time decreases. Adding to this is the fact that there is an overcrowded leadership development landscape. The result is that too many leaders don’t pursue any leadership development activities or, worse, they pursue the wrong ones. The ‘wrong activities’ are those that are costly, time consuming or do not yield desired results. As a result of these challenges, it has become increasingly easy – perhaps even necessary – to drop leadership development from our growing list of priorities.

How can you navigate these inherent barriers towards becoming a great leader?

First, seek accurate feedback. You must know your strengths and development areas to ensure you are using your limited time most effectively. This occurs through a variety of types of assessments, and I recommend a good leadership 360 assessment. When done well, this will provide insights into how you are showing up as a leader. This allows you to be very precise in what aspects of leadership you want to improve. Have a plan that clearly spells out what activities you will pursue toward your development and how you will know you are successful.

For peak performance, you need repetition. I recommend incorporating numerous different activities into your regular routine. Make sure you are contributing to a strong foundation of leadership by reading relevant books and articles and listening to podcasts – a particular favourite of mine is Engaging Leaders by Jesse Lahey.

Remember that this is not about checking the box that you completed an activity. It is about applying what you learned, reflecting on the key insights, and refining your point of view and approach. Take this approach: learn, practice, get feedback, reflect, repeat.

So yes, you are a leader (or soon will be). Keep in mind that wanting to be a great leader is not the same as being a great one. Greatness requires effort and continuous improvement. Leadership development does not need to be costly or time consuming. There are opportunities for development all around us. We just need to know where to look and how to incorporate them into our routine. ffffff

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