The Makings of a Great Leader
Our new blog series, The Makings of a Great Leader, will give you the insight you need to develop into an effective leader.
The first post in this series lays the groundwork for your development. We’ll cover three vital components that will propel you forward as you progress into a confident leader: continuing your education, practicing accountability, and seeking a mentor or coach to work with.
Continue Your Education
Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.
-John F. Kennedy
Participating in continuing education benefits not only you, but the clients who work with you and your organization as a whole. Like accountability, start to view your education as an active process that never ends. Attend seminars, webinars, and conferences to keep learning.
You can also enroll in a course from your local campus, or take part in an online class. The popularity of online education has soared in recent years as a way for busy professionals to continue their education at a comfortable pace.
Many well-known universities now offer course material at no cost online. Although you won’t receive credit in most cases, this can still be an excellent way to expand your knowledge – especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Or, commit to reading an article or blog post a day that offers information relevant to your industry or professional goals. If you’re feeling really ambitious, strive to read a book a week. Audio books are becoming increasingly popular now, allowing you to enjoy a book even while driving, working out, or just lying around.
Remaining committed to your education shows others you take your role as a leader seriously and see learning as a growth opportunity. Still contemplating the benefits of lifelong learning? Check out this article that delves even deeper into the importance of continuing your education.
So often, we speak in terms of holding others accountable – employees, members of our team, and even our kids. But a successful leader is prepared to accept responsibility for his or her actions – whether those actions are perceived as good or bad.
If you find yourself consistently blaming others or outer circumstances for your shortcomings, stop. Replace “you” with “I” – resist making excuses or hiding behind others when the going gets tough.
Own your actions at all times, and when a problem arises, do whatever is necessary to correct it. Think of accountability as an active process of awareness– it’s about fully accepting responsibility for your actions, admitting your shortcomings and limitations, and doing your best to meet or even exceed expectations.
Being a leader can sometimes be uncomfortable – it takes confidence, courage even, to admit our mistakes. Many of us have been conditioned to associate accountability with punishment. If we admit our limited knowledge in a subject area or own up to missing a deadline, we automatically expect a negative reprimand.
Instead, start viewing accountability as the very essence of self-awareness, and as an opportunity to learn and grow. In contrast to being perceived as a failure or incompetent, you’ll actually be viewed as an authentic, trusted professional committed to your work.
Seek a Mentor/Coach
It’s critical to find someone who will stretch your mind and challenge you. Working with a mentor or coach can facilitate positive change, allowing you to grow in ways you never imagined.
Do your research as you seek out a coach or mentor who is well-aligned with your values and goals. Finding a coach you connect with is a process of identifying their values, goals, and personal style. Although you can ask colleagues or friends for a referral, remember that coaching is a very personal experience. What works for one person may not work for you, so don’t rely solely on word of mouth.
Once you find a coach you are interested in working with, sign up for her newsletter if one is available, check out her website, and visit social media platforms. If it feels like a good fit, but you still have some questions, set up a consultation so you can ask any questions you might have.
You can also use the International Coach Federation to assist you in your search, or try using Google to pinpoint a coach who is familiar with your industry or specific need.
Ask these key questions to help you choose the right coach:
- What is her background and area of expertise?
- What are her professional affiliations?
- What do others say about their experiences working with her?
- When you do a web search of the coach, what info pops up?
- What impression does her website or blog give you?
The benefits of working with a coach are far-reaching – here are just a few highlights of what you might work on:
- Increase energy and enthusiasm for your profession and your personal life
- Establish balance between your work and personal life to experience true freedom
- Develop a stronger awareness of opportunities – and how to take advantage of them
- Improve ability to inspire and motivate business partners, team, customers, etc.
- Open to new ideas and solutions you weren’t previously aware of
- Build a new vision of yourself as a strong, fully capable leader
You’ll probably find that many of the topics we’ve discussed here, from working with a coach to continuing your education, will support you both personally and professionally. The new growth you experience as you develop into a strong leader will spill over into many areas of your life, facilitating lasting, positive change.