You’re focused on the strategic development of your leadership, but how do you get there? Use these concepts — expertise and mentorship — to help you reach your leadership goals.
Strategic Development for Leaders
In the two previous blog posts, we addressed two of the four defining questions that highlight the overall strategic development process for leaders — Where Am I Right Now and Where Do I Want to Be. Honest answers to both questions are critical in framing the strategic development of any leader.
Stephen Covey’s iconic book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” first published in 1989 with more than 15 million copies sold since, struck a responsive chord with a lot of people. In it, Covey’s second habit was: “To begin with the end in mind.”
In other words, to have some reasonable chance of getting where you want to be, you need to know where you’re going — and then get started as soon as possible.
I believe Covey’s challenge to his readers — and my challenge to you — are one and the same.
The time is right — and the time is now to establish a clear mental image of what you want your leadership outcomes to be. Once that critical determination has been made, then you can begin to determine what needs to be done. And that’s where the third strategic development question comes into play: “How do I get there?”
How Do I Get There?
In a practical sense, this question is where the rubber hits the road. It’s where aspiring leaders begin to get traction toward their leadership goals.
Unfortunately, this is also the stage where some otherwise capable leaders simply bog down. Rather than gaining traction, they spin their wheels, showing little forward progress.
So how can you counteract that?
There is no one right way for a leader to be successful in his or her leadership undertakings. I wish there were and I wish I had a patent on it. But I don’t. What I do have are techniques I’ve seen used in the successful pursuit of leadership success.
1. Advance Your Knowledge and Understanding
For example, some people answer the “How do I get there?” question by advancing their level of knowledge and understanding.
Notice I didn’t say education — I said knowledge and understanding. I have nothing against formal education. In fact, I’m a proponent. But it must be stated clearly that unlimited opportunities exist to learn to lead outside of formal classrooms.
One way is to purposefully go deep into an area, virtually any area, of your choosing. I’m suggesting deep over wide. Immerse yourself. Work to become the “go to” authority on something specific and important.
“Work to become the ‘go to’ authority on something specific and important.”
It’s better to be known as someone who knows a lot about one important thing – – a recognized authority — rather than someone who knows a little about many things — especially if those things don’t amount too much.
Find something that is important to your organization and then go to work to become a master of that thing. You can do that be reading, researching and personally studying that thing in your spare time.
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2. Work with a Mentor or Trusted Advisor
Another technique that can help you get from here to there? Find yourself a mentor — an experienced and trusted advisor. This one has been critical in my own strategic leadership development.
Find an individual — usually one senior to you, with more practical experience — and then build a relationship with that person.
This is not about sucking up. And it’s not about badgering someone. It’s about recognizing that we don’t know it all and that others may be farther down the professional road than we are.
Then it’s about honoring another by asking for their opinions and then listening to what they have to say. Most will be flattered and unbelievably generous in sharing their time and expertise with you. When they are, be sure you are equally appreciative and considerate of both their time and expertise.
Doing something — almost anything — in a focused effort to answer “how do I get there” is always better than sitting back and doing nothing, hoping your leadership fortunes will change. So think about what you can do. Then go do it!
In my next post, I’ll share the final question to consider as we continue to explore how to develop strategic leaders.
What Do You Find Most Difficult about Strategic Development?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue of strategic development — what do you find most difficult; where do you tend to get stuck; what just doesn’t seem to work for you?
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