Leaders generally know where they are trying to go – it’s called vision. The best leaders also have a good sense of where they are today – it’s called being grounded in reality. However, the challenge is often the how. How will you move from here to there? Today’s Challenge is a question about that journey: I know where I want to go as a leader, how do I get there?
First, let me say the journey from here to there is often difficult. And, it is rarely a straight line. I don’t want a 500-word post to make it sound easy. You will have to navigate the obstacles you know and many yet unseen. The good news, others have made the trip before you. The way is well traveled. Here are five steps you can take to personally move from here to there…
- Clarify your destination. If you aspire to more opportunities to lead and influence within your organization, find out how your organization defines leadership. What is your organization's point-of-view regarding leadership? Is there a competency model? Are there identified leadership behaviors? In some organizations, you may find none of this exists. If not, choose your own. As you may know, I believe great leaders SERVE.
- Confirm your current reality. You can accomplish this many ways. Triangulation is my preferred approach. Try soliciting feedback from your supervisor, your peers and those you lead. When you receive the feedback, do some serious self-reflection and processing. What are the patterns? What are the themes? If your organization doesn’t have tools to help you solicit feedback on your leadership, create your own or use one off the shelf.
- Close any critical gaps. This is often referred to as a triage method. Before you can grow strong as a leader, you must address critical deficiencies. To put it more bluntly, you must stop the bleeding before your leadership career dies. If you lack essential skills, you must develop them. This doesn’t mean you will ever excel in these areas; it does mean, with focused effort, you can probably keep your gaps from derailing your career. One thing is for sure, serious issues, left unchecked, will torpedo your journey.
- Focus on your strengths. Once you’ve addressed critical gaps – which may take months or years to address, you are ready to play to your strengths. What is it you do naturally well as a leader? What is it you find the most satisfaction in as a leader? Is it casting vision? Creating plans? Building teams? Solving challenging business issues? Championing change? Where is your leadership sweet spot? Find it and focus on growing in this arena.
- Repeat the process. Leadership development is a journey and that’s not just a metaphor. The truth is, it is a never-ending journey. There is no “there” as indicated in the question at the top of this post. Leaders don’t ever “arrive.” If we ever think we’re done, we are done! The moment we stop growing our leadership journey is over. Granted the momentum we’ve established and the reputation we have created may carry us for a while, but the reality is our influence is linked to our ability to constantly learn and grow. Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.