Developing as a Leader

Yes you heard me right, even as a Leader you still need to develop. Nobody has reached the top and is perfect. All of us are on a journey of growth. The most obvious was in childhood, where our bodies and minds were constantly reaching new milestones. However as adults we need to work on development. It is a conscious effort. The decision is yours, are you happy where you are or do you need to grow?

Read up on horizontal & vertical development. The Center for Creative Leadership has a lot of resources.

You may ask, what is this horizontal & vertical stuff you are talking about?

Horizontal development:    The new information, tools and knowledge you gain

Vertical development:         “What you do with it” – the increase in ability to work with the                                                new knowledge you have gained.

We go through different stages of development. All of us started out as a Conformer, most of the leaders have at least reached the next stage of Achiever. This is the “My way or the Highway” stage – you believe you have all the solutions. The third stage is the Interdependent Collaborator. You know that the best solution for this group / this project / this company only can be worked out and customized by the entire group. You do not provide solutions, but facilitate to work them out.

Since the team has worked on this solution together, they will buy in and own it. Compliance will be much better, less resistance and much better results in the end. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

This growth does not come by itself. If you stop reading, learning, looking for new knowledge, new tools etc, then you have lost your plot. You are stuck in a rut and are not developing. If you stretch yourself and keep learning and working on yourself a whole new world opens up for you.

Here are a few examples from my life:

  • When I got involved in PMI and started volunteering, a whole new network opened up for me. More opportunity to learn from others.
  • Working as Senior Project Manager and Change Manager with different companies my leadership style and my approach changed over the years. I used to be in the achiever stage and wanted people to take up my solutions, since they would make their life much easier. Now I work with the teams – yes the team, not the Senior Management alone – to develop the solutions. They have the answers and ideas, you only need to guide them to formulate their ideas.
  • My journey in the Leadership Institute Master Class (LIMC) of PMI it was the learning more about myself, how I tick and how others perceive me, that triggered the most growth. Have you ever wondered why others perceive some of your good intentions negatively? Usually these areas are overdone strengths. You want to have more of that strength and are subconsciously overdoing it. Once you have identified what you are overdoing, you can then start toning down a bit. You will be surprised how different the others will perceive you.

What does this look like practically? If you are want to be very supportive and overdo it, others may perceive you as self-sacrificing. Your strength is perceived by others as weakness. If you are too adaptable, you may be perceived as compliant. If you are too helpful, you will be perceived as smothering. And the most obvious and common one: If you are too confident, you will come across as arrogant. If you think about it you will find people in your environment, who do exactly that.

All of us have 28 strengths in varying degrees. Some so little developed that they become weaknesses that hinder our growth.

In all the above cases, if you tone it down a bit, don’t do it too much into people’s faces, let it be more subtle, people will perceive it as the strength it is.

We are all on a journey, let’s keep learning and growing. When you look back you can marvel at where you have reached. Like when you stand on a mountain top after a climb and the starting point is in the valley far away. By then you can also laugh at the more foolish things you used to do, as you were growing.

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