Early in my career, I worked on a team where my manager was obviously clueless about an aspect of the work our team was responsible for. New to the professional world, I thought it was just me. I quickly realized that was not the case after hearing most of the seasoned team members express their frustrations during the meetings after the meeting. I remember feeling lost and thinking I would never advance in the company because my leader was not capable of leading us. In hindsight, I realize that that leader could not give what they didn’t have. I also realized there’s more to a leader than the title. Leadership is a gift. When you can directly lead others, you are creating your legacy. Everyone you lead will think back to their experiences with you, good or bad, and draw from them. Therefore, a leader’s greatest asset is a continuous development plan.
Many organizations have robust learning and development strategies as part of the talent management goal of recruiting, developing and retaining top talent. However, most learnings happen in the day to day interactions and experiences. For those who are new to the professional environment, as well as more seasoned employees, having a leader who is self-aware and vested in their personal continuous development, regardless of title or tenure, is a win for everyone involved. Leaders who take time to invest in themselves set a standard for those around them. It demonstrates a desire for continual growth as well as traits of authenticity and humbleness. These leaders serve as positive role models for their teams, especially those desiring to take on leadership roles in the future. Leaders who are equipped with a range of skills are aligned to quickly pivot in the face of change as well as increasing team productivity. An example of this is how leaders have responded to all the change we have and continue to encounter almost daily. Those who did not bury their heads in the sand but made learning and understanding a priority demonstrated to their teams a commitment to personal success as well as the teams’ success.
Leaders who focus on a well-rounded development plan throughout their career are more emotionally connected, continue to drive performance over longer periods of time and decrease leadership gaps. There are three areas where leaders should focus their development- personal, professional and operational.
Personal Development Plan- Focuses on boosting emotional, physical and even spiritual health. This can be achieved through reading, listening to podcasts, making lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise and meditating. Even spending more time with those you care about can aid with this goal.
Professional Development Plan- Aimed at reinforcing business acumen in areas of specific interest. This includes topics like time management, Emotional Intelligence and Empathy training, coaching and mentoring, or the art of creating engaging presentations.
Operational Development Plan- This plan aids with developing skills that help you advance in or stay abreast of industry trends in your line of work. Continuous focus on expanding your knowledge and skills in the area directly aligned with your organizational responsibilities can save the business time and money. It also allows leaders to remain competitive, while reducing gaps in leadership knowledge.
Whether you are the CEO or middle level manager, do not be the snag in the team. Leading a team does not allow room for complacency or outdated methods. Effective leaders set good examples by investing in their personal development, providing resources, following up on team members’ progress and displaying commitment to the process. Having a team where everyone is focused on continuous growth lends itself to innovation, out of the box thinking and cutting-edge business solutions.
Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD