7-steps to grow as a leader

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

I’m constantly invested in my growth as a leader.

Below you’ll find a 7-part process that I hope you steal and make your own. Keep what works, delete the rest. You can use this process to grow your leadership skills before any opportunity.

Prior to applying the process, it is helpful to note an important guiding principle: my goal is to find at least one useful idea that I can apply to my leadership in order to grow.

This forces me to stay open-minded when I find myself in an experience I don’t particularly enjoy. It becomes a game — can I find the one idea that will help me grow as a leader?

It also gives me permission to walk away.

I used to finish every book I started (even if I was hating it). No more! Whether it is a book, a conference, or something else, if I found my one idea and the rest of the experience is not serving me, I have permission to walk away.

Use the following steps to develop your leadership capacity:

Establish your goal

There are countless ways to grow your leadership capacity.

Where do you want to improve?

  • Crafting a meaningful vision?
  • Having hard conversations?
  • Collaboration and ideation?
  • Developing your coaching skills?
  • Making better decisions?

It’s important to know where you are going as a leader prior to engaging in some form of professional learning. You can use goals that you personally identify or the feedback from a supervisor, board, or 360-degree survey that identified areas of opportunity for you.

Now that you have you’re target picked, it’s time to research.

Research and network

Google and ads on social will attempt to persuade you to enroll in different opportunities, but don’t look there first.

Lean into your network (and if you don’t have a network, now is the time to build one). I ask around to successful people in my network. A word-of-mouth referral is important to me. It lowers my perceived risk. If someone I trust has benefitted from an experience and they are further along than I am in a particular area, it makes sense to engage in a similar program. There are also some thought leaders, creators, etc. that I trust and I happily do business with over and over again.

Invest

I had to change my mindset here and to be honest, it was hard.

Fear used to close so many doors to me. I was afraid to invest in my leadership growth. Six years ago, joining an opportunity that might cost $20–50 a month was a stretch. I soon realized this was an upper limit challenge. If I didn’t deal with this challenge it would be like owning an iPhone and using it only to make phone calls.

Instead of seeing the price tag as something scary, I now see it as an opportunity.

For example, two years ago I did the altMBA. Back then it cost about $3K for a 5-week experience. That seemed expensive, but then I reframed the price of admission into an opportunity. If I learned one thing that helped me enroll one new client, the program would pay for itself. When I thought of it like that, it was an easy “Yes” for me.

Money is relative. I used to buy a reliable used car in cash. This year I bought a brand new Subaru Forester because of all the hills and snow in upstate New York. If I wanted to buy a Bentley this year, it would cost me 8x as much, but some people can buy a Bentley in cash. Money is relative.

Engage

What you experience in life is directly correlated to what you put in.

If you are reading a book, annotate it. Take notes. Underline. Write yourself ideas in the margins. At a conference do the same thing, but connect with as many people as possible. If you invest in coaching, don’t hide. Be authentic. Work on what you really need to work on. Show up. Do the work.

Process

After you have fully engaged in a learning experience, block off time in your calendar to process the experience. The biggest mistake people make when attempting to grow their leadership capacity is to continue learning without thinking (and eventually executing).

So if your learning opportunity is a book, schedule time to write a reflection and create a plan for action. I find that writing about what I learn and teaching it to others is a great way to internalize what I learned.

If your learning opportunity is a conference, schedule one extra day after the conference ends, to pour over your notes, reflect, and make a plan.

At all costs, avoid going to the next learning experience or worse, jumping right back into work.

Execute

“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.” — John Doerr

If you want to separate yourself from the majority of others, make a personal commitment to take action and execute at a higher level than anyone else. Being a successful leader comes down to consistently showing up and doing the work. This makes you a professional. Note: that doesn’t mean you work 24–7. It means that you consistently show up and do the right work that will add the most value.

There is a difference between busyness and creating value.

Reflect

I like to work in 12-week cycles.

At the end of a quarter, I reflect on my progress. This includes keeping score on my execution as well as writing a narrative that explains the results I earned. At this point, I may need to continue working on a goal, abandon a goal, or choose a new goal.

Then, the process repeats.

This year I’m focused on:

  • Reading (the single best way to learn from proven leaders who drive results).
  • Live experiences. I’m doing a 9-day coaching intensive.
  • Work with a 1:1 coach 2x/month.
  • Building my internal team in order to serve more leaders.

If you are a school leader looking to level up, check out this opportunity.

If you are a leader in any industry and are looking for a coach, feel free to reach out. I’d like to offer a complimentary 1:1 session to serve you and if it makes sense to continue working together we can discuss that too.

Host of the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast with over one million downloads 🚀

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