Elevating Your Leadership Game

Guest post from Timothy J. Tobin:

Congratulations! You’re a leader. If you’re reading this, you have either already heard this phrase or you aspire to hear it. Leadership is complex and demands are high. How do you continue to elevate your leadership game? What can you do to become a great leader?

Great leaders set a compelling vision. They develop, inspire, and motivate people. They actively listen and provide regular feedback. They recognize and reward talent. They work across organizational boundaries, handle conflict, make decisions, and they deliver results. Great leaders have a learning mindset. They continuously develop themselves and others.

The best leaders make all of this look effortless, but the great ones I’ve worked with are committed to getting better.

Much like physical fitness, you cannot neglect your leadership fitness and expect optimal results. The development choices you make will have a profound impact on your performance and it will also impact those you lead. It is easy to become consumed with all the demands that come with being a leader. After all, you have got a job to do and results to deliver.

Then again, isn’t one of your imperatives to be the best leader you can be? Somehow, that gets lost for some leaders and they wind up focusing on the never-ending tasks and initiatives that are immediately in front of them. Those projects certainly cannot be ignored.

What winds up getting neglected is a focus on development. Ongoing development – the learning, commitment, resilience, and effort – is often what separates great leaders from everyone else. However, when it comes to leadership development, the two greatest challenges facing leaders today are 1) finding the time to focus on their development and 2) determining where to start.

Today’s leaders simply have too many competing priorities. Making matters more challenging: as we move up the leadership ladder, demands increase and discretionary time decreases. Adding to this is the fact that there is an overcrowded leadership development landscape. The result is that too many leaders don’t pursue any leadership development activities or, worse, they pursue the wrong ones. The ‘wrong activities’ are those that are costly, time consuming or do not yield desired results. As a result of these challenges, it has become increasingly easy – perhaps even necessary – to drop leadership development from our growing list of priorities.

How can you navigate these inherent barriers toward becoming a great leader?

First, seek accurate feedback. You must know your strengths and development areas to ensure you are using your limited time most effectively. This occurs through a variety of types of assessments, and I recommend a good leadership 360 assessment. When done well, this will provide insights into how you are showing up as a leader. This allows you to be very precise in what aspects of leadership you want to improve. Have a plan that clearly spells out what activities you will pursue toward your development and how you will know you are successful.

When it comes to activities, here is your opportunity to shine – to elevate your game by building good, sustainable habits. Make sure the activities you choose are directly tied to improving the specific areas you outlined in your plan. You should do something to develop your leadership skills at least weekly. Time is of the essence, so it is imperative you remain laser focused on those activities that will help you improve. Lofty, one-time activities may be fine, but by themselves are limited in the impact they can have on your development.

For peak performance, you need repetition. I recommend a steady and balanced diet across numerous types of activities that are incorporated into your regular routine. Make sure you are contributing to a strong foundation of leadership by reading relevant business books and articles and listening to podcasts. Maintain your flexibility by actively engaging in a variety of on the job activities – shadowing, stretch assignments, task forces, teaching, and other such activities.

Remember that this is not about checking the box that you completed an activity. It is about applying what you learned, reflecting on the key insights, and refining your point of view and approach. Take this approach: learn, practice, get feedback, reflect, repeat.

So yes, you are a leader (or soon will be). Keep in mind that wanting to be a great leader is not the same as being a great one. Greatness requires effort and continuous improvement. Leadership development does not need to be costly or time consuming. There are opportunities for development all around us. We just need to know where to look and how to incorporate them into our routine.

Timothy J. Tobin is author of Peak Leadership Fitness:  Elevating Your Leadership Game and a learning and leadership development professional committed to helping individuals and organizations reach their greatest potential. He is currently vice president, franchisee onboarding and learning at Choice Hotels International, where he oversees the hotel opening processes and learning strategy and programs for all franchisees.

He was previously vice president of global leadership development at Marriott, and held leadership roles at Baker Tilly (formerly Beers + Cutler) and Booz Allen Hamilton, where he designed and implemented a variety of talent management solutions.

A frequent leadership speaker, he has served as an adjunct professor for more than 20 years at the University of Maryland, Catholic University, Trinity University, and George Washington University.

For more information, please visit https://www.td.org/books/peak-leadership-fitness.

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