We all have leaders we look up to, who value us and help us develop. They have a vision and they take us with them. We can also likely count those leaders on one hand because those qualities are rare. If we want to be more like those leaders we admire we need to do what they do. In order to be able to have a vision and to nurture and develop others, we must have a vision for ourselves. That takes investment.
Many people shy away from investing in themselves, especially if it feels (en)forced. I believe however that the process of investment can be exciting, it stretches our curiosity and encourages us to reflect on our leadership and the impact it has. It allows us to examine our beliefs and values, our leadership styles and to analyse and understand our behaviours. Investment isn’t optional, it’s part of what makes those leaders we admire great. It takes them to the next level.
Learning never stops
Hang around with me for a little while and you are sure to hear the phrase “every day is a school day!”. Whether you are a child exploring the world or a well-experienced member of the board, you are still learning. If you feel like you aren’t learning then it’s a sure sign you should be.
Have you heard of the conscious competence model? It is the four stages of competence and the best way I have heard it explained was on my coaching course by using the example of learning to drive.
Step 1: Unconscious incompetence. When you are 5 years old you have no idea about how to drive a car or the skills required to drive a car. You don’t know if you would be any good at this skill and it doesn’t trouble you. In order to move to the next stage, you have to recognise that you are ‘incompetent’ at this skill and need to learn it.
Step 2: Conscious incompetence. That first time you try and drive a car and you stall it and you think you’ll never be any good… that’s what this stage feels like! However, you recognise the benefits and keep trying, using your mistakes to learn.
Step 3: Conscious competence. You have passed your test, you can drive a car but it still takes concentration and you might have to frequently remind yourself of the steps involved e.g. “mirror, signal, manoeuvre”
Step 4: Unconscious competence. You are a competent and experienced driver and driving is second nature. If needed you could teach others how to drive.
Recognising the need for reflection
Whilst when we master a skill it becomes second nature there are times when we move back down a step or two e.g. if it’s foggy or wet then you might concentrate instead of talking. (I always turn the radio off if I am driving around a new city!)
This is true for any skills that we learn, including leadership skills. There are times we will need to learn from our mistakes and trust ourselves, even though it feels we will never get there. Times we will feel like an amazing leader and then we make a bad choice and set ourselves back and times when we need to focus and concentrate. There will also come a time when we can teach others.
Reflection allows us to identify any gaps in our own knowledge, to acknowledge our decision making processes and to tweak our strategies.
The importance of nurturing your relationships as a leader
When we look at those leaders we admire, often the thing we admire the most is how much they give to others. Leadership isn’t just about you and your progress (although I think that is important, clearly!) Leadership is about others, inspiring and motivating them, recognising and nurturing potential. If your focus is not on developing others, you’re missing out.
Of course, it’s not only those people who we inspire who have an impact on us but those we surround ourselves with. Jim Rohn famously said
You become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with
Now I don’t know if that’s true but I have certainly found that if I consciously spend time with the people I need to fill me up or learn a new skill it feels easier than when I try and do it by myself! If you are open to investing in yourself as a leader you take responsibility for yourself and can commit to choosing to become the best leader you can be.
Setting your mindset to invest in yourself and others allows you to explore and practice so that you can pursue your leadership direction with confidence. From overcoming your limiting beliefs and shushing those gremlins to taking (calculated) risks to develop and progress towards success.
We, as leaders need to ask for what we want, adapt to the needs of our audience and understand that leaders are not born, they are made
The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson