In the article following this one, “Characteristics of the Most Successful Leaders,” Sean Wolfington notes one of the qualities leaders who are the most effective have is that they are “Addicted to Better,” meaning that they are never satisfied with their skill level. True leaders are always looking for ways to educate and train themselves, to hone and improve their talents. Here are some methods you might find useful in becoming the best leader you can be.
If you’re in a leadership position, or hope to be in one in the future, you can probably look back over your career and find people who you consider outstanding role models. These are the leaders who stick in your memory as people you want to emulate.
Make some time to speak with them. Take them aside and just ask for their advice. Maybe you have a situation with an employee and you’re not sure of the best way to handle it. Perhaps there have been changes in your company’s structure that have people worried. Sometimes, you might only need a one-time check in for some advice in general about leading your team.
This could be an on-going relationship or a simple discussion with a trusted mentor, but seeking the experience of someone who has done what you want to do is a great step toward growing as a leader.
While it might not feel like it during stressful times, you are not the first person to be put in charge of an organization, nor are you the only person currently leading a group. Others have faced, or are facing, the same situations you find yourself in. Look for opportunities to connect with other leaders where you can share your experiences — your successes, your failures and your stories — so you can learn from each other and grow.
Sometimes there will be other leaders in your organization who might have some of the same challenges you do; you can work together to come up with solutions. Don’t be afraid to connect with leaders in different industries, as well. While the specifics of their situation might be different from yours, there are common keys to providing great leadership. Learn from them — and let them learn from you.
This networking can be done in person, through virtual groups or even online forums, but there are others out there who are willing to share what has worked for them — be one of those people. As good as it is to receive help, it can be even more rewarding to help others.
Books and Other Media
Seek out interviews with leaders you admire, and often they’ll mention a book or some other reference that has been inspiring to them. Ask your mentors and peers what they’ve found particularly useful or encouraging in their own quest to become better leaders. Do your own research and find books, audiobooks, magazines or other publications that you believe would resonate with your needs and interests. There’s no lack of material out there; it’s up to you to find it and to put it into use.
A recent study found that the average American read four books in the past year, with 27 percent reporting that they hadn’t read any books. As Mark Twain famously said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” Keeping your mind active is crucial to not only growing as a leader but growing as a person. Expose yourself to both fresh ideas and timeless strategies and you’ll have a major advantage over your competition who will eventually “get around to it.”
While books and/or audiobooks are essential, podcasts have become a great way to stay current on modern leadership methods and finding out what’s working in the business world today. While I’m certainly proud of the AutoSuccess podcast (and strongly urge you to check it out if you haven’t already), there are scores of other podcasts available to listeners today, all free for the downloading. Sample some of these, find hosts you like who speak on topics that interest you, and you’ll have some great listening during your commute or in your downtime that will both entertain you and keep you on top of your game.
Going to class no longer needs to involve trekking out to the local community college or showing up for seminars at hotels. The ability to take courses online — either live or on-demand — gives us access to great resources that we can fit in around our schedule. These courses could be given by universities, companies in our field or by online training businesses. They could be formal courses, informal presentations, Webinars, question-and-answer sessions or any number of other productions. AutoSuccess offers several Webinars every year, and asking your mentors, peers and friends for their recommendations might yield up trainers and other resources that can help you grow.
As leaders, sometimes we feel like we’re alone at the top while our team looks to us to come up with the big ideas that will bring success. The truth is we’re never alone; sometimes we just have to take a look around to see all the resources available to us. Make the effort and grow as the leader your team needs you to be.