Leadership is a continuous journey — we should never stop learning. One of the most effective ways of learning and growing, according to Kouzes and Posner (Learning Leadership, Willey, 2016), is to look for “stretch” assignments; areas for personal development. They suggest that you list several areas in which you would like to grow personally. This could be as a leader or as a person in general. You then pick one that will take you the farthest out of your comfort zone, but not so far that it will create significant stress. An example would be public speaking: if this an area that you feel needs improvement, then find somewhere to work on it. You could join a Toastmasters group or stretch yourself by finding a networking group where you would have to present yourself and what you do.
Another way to stretch and learn is to become involved in an organization outside of your own, possibly a charity or non-profit organization. Volunteer your leadership skills and while doing so, be open to learn new ones in the new environment. You may be surprised at insights you will get just by placing yourself in a different space. Warren Bennis tells the story of how he spent a summer taking a liberal arts course in Europe, taking advantage of spending time there while his children were also studying. He states that he did it just for the sake of taking the course and learning something new and different.
Some other ways to consider improving your own (and your team’s) learning is provided again by Kouzes and Posner in their workbook to the 5th edition of the Leadership Challenge:
- Arrange a field trip that would stimulate your [team’s] thinking
- Read magazines from fields you know nothing about
- Call three customers or clients and ask them what they would like to see your organization do that you are not doing now.
- Go shopping at a competitors store or website
- Bring a client or customer into one of your planning meetings and ask the person to share his or her ideas
- How can you search outside of your own project and/or your own organization to discover unexpected ideas?
These are some great thoughts to reflect on, especially at this time of year as we look ahead to 2017.
Over the past two-plus years I have written and published over 70 posts on Leadership and Leadership development. Click here to access my Leadership series directory:
John Whitehead, coaches’ individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.
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