Are you committed to your leadership development? Part 1
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Leadership development has been on almost every company’s agenda. Organizations frequently offer various options to advance their leaders’ skills and performance, including formal feedback sessions, the development of Individual Development Plans, mentoring and coaching programs, courses and seminars, talks, sponsorships, etc. However, self-development will take place once we are personally committed to it. It results from our own drive and effort, which includes having our leadership development agenda in our own hands. To which extent are you committed to your development as a leader?
In part one of this two-part series, I invite you to consider your plans for enhancing your leadership capacity. Based on personal experience designing a leadership development plan, I will discuss steps to follow in your search for professional growth that will impact your work and personal life.
What are your strengths and areas for improvement as a leader?
Diving into your main strengths and areas for further improvement is fundamental to producing a leadership development plan. This should include personal reflections based on your own perceptions and, more importantly, how others perceive your leadership abilities and impact. Without a clear picture of your leadership strengths and weakeness, your plan might be doomed to either presuppose non-existing skills or invest in areas that have already been developed.
It all begins with self-awareness, one of the most relevant aspects of successful leadership. Self-awareness is about being aware of your emotions, understanding their impact on your performance, recognizing how your behavior affects others. It’s also about how other people influence your emotional state, as well as about being honest about both your positive and negative biases.  It enables us to act with conviction and authenticity.
To enhance my leadership capacity, I looked into different sources of information. It is crucial to be ready to face your strengths and weakness in the process. I dived into my most recent 360 and 180-degree feedback documents, reports from specialized agencies who had assessed me as a leader, and my personal reflections and views. I also reached out to direct reports and colleagues from different departments who would have the courage to tell me the good and bad about my perceived leadership skills. Finally, I made a list of competencies and areas for improvement.
The second very revealing exercise was the drawing of my "My Personal Board of Directors", adapted from Boyatzis et al. (2008). You should draw a table of any shape or size. Represent yourself by sitting at the head. Around and outside the table, "seat" (draw) people who have been important influences to you. They can be from any sphere of life, including your parents, co-workers, teachers, family members, etc. Indicate their names. On the inside of the table, in front of each person, you should write a few words indicating the influence they have had on your life. This exercise makes our motives quite clear. Motives are those aspects that give us satisfaction, the unconscious drivers that are predictive of behaviors.
It was interesting to observe the coincidences between the strengths indicated in the assessment reports and by colleagues and the aspects “brought to the table” by the many people who have most influenced me throughout my life. There was a strong convergence between such traits and behaviors, which confirms that motives are influenced by early emotional experiences and are difficult to change. This was one of the most interesting exercises I have done in my search for more self-awareness as a leader, and I invite you all to try it out.
The third step was to analyze areas for improvement. The most interesting and precise feedback I got was from colleagues and direct reports. I was careful enough to reach out to people who would feel comfortable telling me what they saw as areas I needed to be aware of and develop in the future. The first and perhaps most insightful comment was how I tended to provide the solution to problems brought to my attention instead of asking the person what he/she thought should be done. This attitude did not contribute to their development and encouraged them to ‘outsource’ the responsibility for the decision and the consequences. A second very relevant area for improvement was communication. It was pointed out that I sometimes failed to communicate all relevant initiatives to my team members. A final example of what was indicated is the need for a better balance between my personal and professional life. I tended to work long hours, and there was some concern about it because it could be seen as an expected model for everybody else.
Looking into the areas we need to improve on might cause some discomfort. However, this was a fundamental exercise for me as a leader. It was insightful, rich, and relevant to the plan that I decided to develop.
What about you? How often do you intentionally focus on your strengths and weaknesses in a balanced, neutral, and analytical way? Do you tend to see only your qualities and positive traits and behaviors, or do you usually focus mainly on your weaknesses? The ability to recognize both will undoubtedly make you a stronger leader.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Leave a comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.
1. Bilimoria, D. (2016). Introduction to Emotional Intelligence, Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University.
2. Boyatzis, R., A. McKee & F. Johnson (2008). Becoming a resonant leader, HBP, Boston.
3. McAllister C. M. (2017). Motives, Crummer Graduate School of Business.