If you want to be a better leader, get curious about what you might still be able to learn
We recently had a very senior leader join a live-online leadership training he had hired us to do with his team. Not in a “watch from the sidelines” kind of way as sometimes happens. He was all in to be a better leader.
He actively participated in the breakout conversations and completed his action learning assignments and reported them in the learning lab.
In addition to providing this training for his team, he was curious about what he could do to be a better leader.
In debriefing his experience after the final session, he shared.
This was interesting for me to slow down and really think about HOW I’m leading. I spend so much time on strategic issues, it was helpful to try some new approaches and tools. Ha, I can’t help but think that it might be helpful for my boss to take this class too 😉
4 Approaches to Help You Become an (Even Better) Leader
Once you get to “expert” level, it’s easy to put all your leadership development energy into your team. After all, it’s your job to grow leaders. You want to invest in your team as others have invested in you.
Perfect. There’s no better way to get your team focused on being better leaders than to show that you too are working to be a better leader. Experts are continual students.
Here are a few approaches that can help.
1. Slow down and revisit the fundamentals.
I (Karin) am a decent skier. Most of the time, I can get down the expert slopes without doing too much harm to myself or others.
But the trouble is, my form isn’t always the most efficient, or graceful. AND, I’ve been skiing pretty much the same way for the last decade.
This past week, over Christmas break, I did something I haven’t done in a really long time. In the mornings I watched some really basic Youtube videos which included some skiing drills. And then, I spent part of each day skiing the easy stuff and really paying attention to my form—before I headed back to the blacks.
Shocker—I got better.
What if you took a moment to really think about how you’re approaching the foundational leadership activities that come naturally for you and consider your technique? Look around. Read a new book. Notice what your peers are doing that might be worth a try.
2. Become a Leader Teacher.
One of the best ways to continue to refine your leadership skills is to teach leadership. In many of our long-term leadership programs, we incorporate a “leader as teacher” approach. In addition to more senior leaders participating in the program along with their teams, we prepare them to be “leader teachers” to reinforce the concepts and discuss application in-between sessions in small challenger groups.
There’s no better way to master a new skill than to teach it. And when leaders know they will be facilitating conversations about a new approach, they’re much more likely to try it themselves first so they can speak from first-hand experience.
You can do this on your own too.
Talk with your team about some strategic areas they’re focused on to become better leaders this year. Perhaps it’s getting better at leading virtual meetings. Or building a more robust virtual communication strategy. Stretch yourself to learn some new approaches, teach them to your direct reports, and then schedule some time to debrief how it went and what everyone learned.
3. Avoid S.A.S.R.N.T. syndrome.
When you’re a strong leader, and you stumble across a new leadership approach or tool, it’s easy to fall into S.A.S.R.N.T. syndrome. (So and So Really Needs This).
You think you know who needs this … my boss, or my peer, or my spouse, and you run off and immediately share it with them.
Of course, when you do that, you miss the opportunity to become a better leader yourself.
There’s no better way to get your team to notice a new approach than to first model it yourself. As you take the journey, then you can invite others to join you.
4. Involve your team in your development.
The start of the year is the perfect time to work on leadership development plans … not just for your team, but for yourself as well.
Start with a courageous question. “This year, one focus I have is working to become a better leader for you and the rest of the team. What’s one specific area you think I can work on that would have the biggest impact?”
Of course, when your team sees you investing time and energy to become a better leader, they’re more likely to make it a priority for themselves as well.
What would you add? What has worked for you to take your leadership to the next level?
And if you’re looking for an advanced leadership book to read with your team this year, check out Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovator’s Problem Solvers and Customer Advocates (and download the FREE Executive Strategy Guide) to facilitate a “leaders as teachers” conversation with your team.