Personal development is something everyone should be working on, and this is especially true for leaders. Leaders are looked up to for guidance and direction, so it’s important that they set strong standards for personal growth.
One of the first things a leader must do is accept personal responsibility. In fact, it is often the acceptance of personal responsibility that makes one a good leader. When an individual is able to realize the importance of their actions and take responsibility for their life, they open a door that will enable them to see remarkable results.
Leaders only reach the level of having authority and managing others after they have first learned to manage themselves. A leader must take full responsibility for his/her actions and outcomes, both the good and the bad.
With multiple stakeholders and projects requiring a leader’s attention, time becomes a very scarce resource. Improving one’s time management skills should be a top personal development goal for leaders.
Leaders should learn to identify activities that are just distractions and time-wasters, while switching their attention to more value-added activities. An essential part of time management is also being able to convey the right priorities to subordinates, to ensure that everyone is working on the same page.
Leaders should strive to show the importance of meeting deadlines, both by word and example. A leader who always completes their targets on time or early sets an excellent example for others to follow.
A skill that distinguishes leaders from regular employees is being able to think strategically. Great leaders realize that everything they do should have a purpose, that their actions should ultimately bring them closer to a greater goal or vision.
The best strategic thinkers see the big picture, and are not sidetracked by minor issues. To be able to lead effectively, individuals in leadership positions need to be able to take a broader business perspective that looks years into the future.
This is an important element that separates leaders from those who work under them. While most employees can do well at their jobs by focusing only on the day-to-day tactical operations, leaders must approach issues from a bigger perspective.
A bird’s eye view of events not only helps leaders to problem-solve, it also helps them to identify opportunities that can give the organization a competitive advantage. Leaders come to the table with the all-important ‘why’, that helps everyone else figure out the ‘what’ and ‘how’.
Leaders must learn to effectively handle challenges, such as delivering unpopular news, increasing team motivation and restoring credibility. As well as dealing with unhappy customers, leaders will have to handle many situations that centre on employee issues, such as difficult employees who display a negative, lazy, or know-it-all attitude.
Such potentially destructive behaviours can be addressed by setting clear expectations and implementing a feedback system. Employees need guidance and require clear, constructive feedback on what they are doing well and what they should do to improve.
It is important to leaders to understand human motivation, and be able to separate the behaviour and the person as required to address an issue. Great leaders need courage to deliver bad news when required, make difficult decisions instead of pushing things under the carpet, and to follow through with what they say.
The art of listening involves treating every person we meet as if they know something valuable that we don’t. Leaders should strive to improve their active listening skills and elicit information by asking good questions.
What is active listening? Active listening is making a conscious effort to fully concentrate on what another person is saying. It’s more than just hearing the words, it’s really getting the sense of what the other person is trying to convey.
Developing active listening skills will enable a leader to come more frequently into contact with amazing ideas. Why? Because when a leader listens carefully to team members, they may discover ideas that they may not have been able to come up with on their own.
To become better listeners, leaders should endeavour to give everyone a chance to speak and use non-verbal cues to demonstrate interest and acknowledgment.
Another key personal development goal for leaders should be practicing self-discipline.
Why would a leader need self-discipline - don’t they decide whatever they want and call the shots? Actually, no.
Self-discipline is an important aspect of leadership because it is a powerful force that leads to consistent action, which eventually leads to great results.
I think Matt Sandrini excellently expressed it in his article on Medium where he said that discipline is just another word for faith. Individuals who exercise self-discipline trust that over time it will produce results.
When a leader shows self-discipline, it is a powerful force for motivating his team, because actions speak louder than words. Leaders who make decisions based on what is best for the company (rather than what is best for them personally) send out a clear message about integrity that is remarkably inspiring.
Humility is not normally something you would find on a list of personal development goals for leaders, but I think it is imperative. Humility is not a sign of weakness, but actually a sign of strength – and a quality that allows a leader to continue to make progress.
Leaders who are humble benefit themselves and others for so many reasons: they are more approachable, they are able to learn more and have a better grasp on organizational needs, they are able to give better feedback, and they are highly respected.
Leaders with humility are able to learn from their mistakes and accept the areas they need to work on – it all links back to a sense of personal responsibility. Self-reflection is a powerful tool that leaders who are humble use to advance in every aspect of their career.
Leaders should constantly strive to expand their skill set and knowledge base. They should aim to have cross-functional knowledge and perspective - that means knowing other aspects of the business apart from their functional silo.
This is a quality that any leader will quickly realize the importance of, because while leaders do not automatically have expertise in every field, they become responsible for managing people within various business roles. Thus, they must step up their game to be able to understand multiple viewpoints and communicate in a way that resonates with different groups.
Cross-functional skills also enable leaders to acquire an understanding of the expectations that employees should be setting for themselves.
One of the most fascinating personal development goals for leaders is learning how to influence people. Despite common negative connotations, the concept of persuasion and influence is not devious - it’s actually vital in the leadership context. You can’t get much done as a leader if people won’t follow you.
Leaders need to be able to get buy-in, and this requires learning how to engage, inform, and inspire others. Leaders should also learn how to use language to achieve impact, through the persuasive techniques of ethos (credibility), pathos (emotions) and logos (logic). Great leaders keenly study human behaviour and learn to communicate in a way that resonates with others.
Leaders have a huge role in providing guidance and mentorship to members of their team. Therefore leaders should make it a goal to carve out time to help others grow in their role. This can include meeting with individuals to discuss their career goals and helping them create their own development plan.
Leaders and managers grow by learning how to grow their people. To be effective coaches and mentors, it is important for leaders to take a personal interest in members of their team and build a bond of trust and communication. Through mentorship, leaders can also identify future leaders and guide them to reach their full potential.
I created a personal development plan template, that you can use to map out your life, career, and business goals. You can download it for free below:
People tend to experience and observe many changes during the span of their career, and this is especially true for leaders. Leadership requires looking to the future, anticipating changes, and making proactive adjustments.
Leaders should make it their goal to overcome the challenges that come with change. They should develop a flexible attitude, and be willing to shift and experiment as things change. Our attitude towards change determines how it will affect us.
Who Moved My Cheese is a great book that teaches many valuable lessons about dealing with change. The book uses an intelligent tale based on fictional characters to highlight the ways people often deal with change in their personal and professional lives, and how to develop an anticipatory approach to change.
Leadership presence is a combination of personal and interpersonal skills, including the ones we identified above, that work together to send all the right signals. It involves the ability to command a room and communicate in an authentic way that inspires others.
Developing leadership presence is a vital personal development goal for leaders because it is not something that is automatically assigned to leaders as a result of their business achievements. Leadership presence is something that is gradually learned and cultivated, through working on all the goals mentioned above.
When an individual is able to develop this quality it is very rewarding, because it becomes a ‘wow’ factor that sets someone up for promotions and increased opportunities.
So these are top personal development goals for leaders that can help them advance in their career and continue to be a source of direction and inspiration to others. Even leaders need to keep sharpening their skills!
Thanks for reading! Can you think of any other essential goals for leaders?
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