Tune your leadership skills purposefully

Now that you have a sense of who you want to be as a leader – see last week’s discussion on Be Before You Do – it’s time to make a development plan to ensure you become the leader you envision for yourself. 

Leaders in transition need to reskill in many ways. It is necessary to develop new capabilities related to the new role, as well as make the psychological shift that will move you from leader in title to leader in practice. The physical change is quick, new office, new view. The capabilities will take some time, and the psychological switch takes the longest and is the most dynamic and unpredictable switch. The last one is tricky because it rolls with ups and downs, doubt, fear, overwhelm, anxiety, depression, to hope and enthusiasm. This shift is the most complex and often the culprit for a leadership fail.

Developing your leadership capacity and persona deliberately with the appropriate supports around you increases the opportunity for success.

  1. Take stock of where you are, what your strengths and challenges are, where you are in the psychological transition.
  2. Determine where you want to be and on which leadership aspects you need to focus your development first.
  3. Gather feedback from others so you can understand how others perceive your leadership to reduce blind spots.

Success in defining your leadership improvement plan is dependent on being open, curious, agile, and absolutely committed to being the leader you have defined for yourself. Internal honesty is paramount to ensure you can perceive your leadership as others do without if’s, and’s, but’s or when’s. Finding ways to hold yourself accountable and measuring your development also require concerted effort.

Sometimes, important pieces of our personality need adjustment, like Mike who always considered himself to be a relatable leader. He was comfortable talking with almost everyone, and he had a quick wit that could soften the mood and capture people’s attention. So, he was surprised when his 360° review came back with comments suggesting that his emails were at times confusing, or reduced his leadership presence.

After processing the new information Mike decided to address the issue head on, so he spoke with some of his 360° participants and learned that small jokes in his emails fell flat because others did not have the shared context to appreciate them. He also discovered that, although some self-effacing humour during personal or small group conversations helped his relatability, in emails this approach only detracted from his leadership persona. Mike’s gut response was, to heck with it, I will avoid humour at all costs, it just makes thing worse. Over time he realized that he can and should manage his sense of humour, it is an important part of him, but like everything, there is a right place and a right time.

Being a leader is a journey. There is always room to learn and improve, and to broaden your leadership capabilities. There is no world’s best leader – different circumstances create different leadership opportunities. Tune your skills so you are the right leader at the right time more often.