Perhaps there has not been a time such as now when self-development has become imperative. In a world of constant change in which certainty no longer exists, ensuring that one remains on the cutting edge of whatever field of endeavour one is in is paramount. Being relevant today is about what you can ‘bring to the table’.
This is why some older people find it difficult to accept the fact that the younger generation may not put them on the pedestal they ‘think’ they deserve. not realising (or not wanting to accept) that it is because the younger gen cannot see why you should be on any pedestal. Leadership capacity justifies your leadership and gives you credibility in the eyes of others. So how can you develop yourself and improve your capacity as a leader?
The first thing is you must have Self-awareness. Daniel Goleman, expert on emotional intelligence says self-awareness is the first component of emotional intelligence and it “means having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drives”. People who are self-aware in his words “are honest – with themselves and with others”. Honesty with oneself is the first step in developing leadership capacity. When you are realistic with yourself, you know your weaknesses and capacity gaps.
A self-aware person knows what the requirements of the role or position he or she is in are and is always evaluating him or herself to ensure that they measure up to these requirements. Someone who doesn’t know what their own weaknesses and capacity gaps are, is unfortunately inhabiting a land of self-delusion. Even worse is a person who knows what their weaknesses and capacity gaps are but lacks the humility to accept and do something about them – that person is living in a world of self-deceit.
Secondly you must develop the attitude and disposition that encourages personal leadership development. These are some of the things that will help us here:
a. We must be able to acknowledge what we don’t know and take steps to fill the knowledge or capacity gaps. When asked for leadership tips she could give those who wanted a career path like hers, Ginni Rometty, former Executive Chairman of technology and consulting company IBM, said: “ “I think it’s this idea of being a constant learner, of always being willing to say to yourself, “You don’t know everything and you can learn something,” from whoever.”4 She was always and continues to be willing to learn and to be humble enough to learn from whoever she can learn from no matter their status. If we are going to develop the attitude that encourages personal development, we must be able to learn from others – no matter who they may be.
b. We must be able to handle constructive negative feedback. If you are unable to accept feedback that is constructive though negative, you will miss genuine opportunities to develop your leadership capacity.
c. We must ask questions and listen more. Listening demonstrates that we have humility. On her success as a talk show host interviewing people, Oprah Winfrey said: “My skill comes from my listening ability.” Listening provides a window into the lives and circumstances of others like nothing else can. Leaders who want to connect with those they lead and develop greater empathy must listen more.
d. We must engage in continuous learning: building our knowledge, skills, and technical competence.
e. We must understand that we cannot make excuses for not fulfilling the responsibilities of our positions as leaders. When we make excuses, it shows we are not ready to take responsibility for what is expected of us. We must do what it takes to fulfil all that is required of us.
The third thing is you must be able to deal with change. We can look at this in two parts: first is being able to anticipate change and second is being able to change what is not working.
To anticipate change, ask yourself where you think change that will impact your business and life is going to come from, and how you think it will come. This is important because developing your leadership capacity ought to be in the context of the industry and circumstances in which you operate. The answer to this sets the agenda for you, determining where and how you need to develop your leadership capacity.
The other part of dealing with change is that you must be able to change what is not working. After anticipating change, we need to identify if there is anything we are currently doing that is not working. Management consultant Roselinde Torres in a TEDTalk asked: “Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?” Since everything we do is subject to change including those things that have contributed to our success, it means that if the conditions that existed when we deployed those practices that led to past successes have changed, they may now no longer work.
Conversely, we should also be able to ask ourselves if we can abandon something that has hindered our success. Asking ourselves about our ability to abandon practices that have resulted in past success or even failure, helps us determine if we are resistant to change. The point is to know if we are so rigidly tied to anything we are doing, such that change becomes impossible.
Considering all this can I ask you to set specific personal development goals for yourself for the next six months? How do you intend to achieve them? Thank you and until next week, let me challenge you to Begin to Lead from where you are.