Leadership Success: The Quick Start Guide – Part 3


Here is a simple truth - you can’t become a better leader without learning and you can’t learn without the experiences that go with leadership. In this sense, everything you experience - ‘good’ ‘bad’ ‘easy’ or ‘difficult’– can feed your development as a leader.

So what then constitutes an experience? Basically, it is whatever captures your attention while you are in the middle of it (or after it is over). Thus, your challenges, successes and frustrations all offer the potential to advance your development as a leader. You just need to make the time to reflect and learn from what is in front of you.

What do I need to understand?

Each leader must find his or her own way of succeeding through understanding:

  1. Themselves and what drives them;
  2. The context or world they lead in;
  3. The people they work with and work through;
  4. What constitutes successful action; and
  5. How 1-4 above relate to each other.

Thus, learning to lead is as much about learning how to learn as it is about what you learn; and it is an ongoing experience rather than something that you ‘download’ only at a training course.

The truth is that leaders develop over time through hundreds, even thousands, of experiences beginning in early childhood through young adulthood and into senior leadership roles.

So if you want to become a better leader it means becoming better at learning from experience, particularly those challenging or problematic experiences that cause you to rethink what you are doing as a leader.

Central to this process is the art of reflection. That is, the process of stepping back from an experience to carefully take stock and, through doing so, drive your development. The process of reflection challenges you to view problems, obstacles and successes in new ways; and it helps you to generate insight into yourself and your situation and then helps you to put those insights back into practice.

So how then do you make the most of reflection as a learning process? It can be as simple as creating a leadership learning journal. In fact, as little as one hour spent reflecting on a challenging situation, using some simple questions and guidelines, can significantly increase your learning from that situation.

So what kind of questions can I consider?

Think of a challenging leadership situation, that you have been or are currently faced with, and then consider the following questions:

  • What were you trying to achieve?
  • What worked in that situation and what did you do well?
  • What didn't seem to work as well as you would have liked?
  • Did anything push your ‘hot buttons’? Why? What does this tell you about what you think is the right way of doing things?
  • If the person you respect the most in the world was to give you some guidance about this situation, what would they say?
  • What possible options for new action have you identified now? What others can you think of?
  • Which option(s) might you focus on to improve your results next time around?
  • What is the first small step you can take today that will get things heading in the right direction?

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