If Peyton Manning is one of the best quarter backs in the NFL, why does he have a passing coach? I believe it’s because he understands greatness is not a destination, it is a journey.
Continual development is the only way to improve upon your existing abilities and become a great leader. Even those leaders who inherently “get it” must first invest in themselves to ensure they are prepared to invest in others. Below are three rules-of-thumb I believe are essential to personal development.
- Take in new information: The best advice I received in college was from a guest lecturer who, on the top of personal development, said, “Read everything.” His point was, if you are not constantly taking in new ideas, you’re quickly becoming obsolete. For me this meant a small library of leadership books and countless hours surfing the web for articles. But it can also mean attending seminars, having regular meetings with a mentor, taking a class, exploring how leadership is relevant in areas outside your line of work (i.e. sports, history, exploration), and etc.
- Be proactive: My dad always told me, “Don’t ever be in receive mode. Only those who are proactive in searching out the answers will be successful.” Some of the leadership tools I use most often I found while flipping through leadership books and talking with people outside of my regular courses. Yes, this does require you to invest some of your free time. Few jobs let you sit in your office and read leadership books, but the investment of personal time pays off in the end.
- Implementation and practice: There are thousands of leadership concepts and everyone approaches them a little differently. After you’ve invested the time in learning these concepts, you need to try the out and figure out what works best for you. Because leaders deal with people, no situation will be the same. Some encounters will be more tense than others making you feel a little awkward, and that’s OK. In my first leadership role I really struggled with delegating to people who were much older than me. Even though I knew my role required me to perform this action, it was not yet comfortable. It took a few months of constantly practicing, making small adjustments to my approach, and practicing again before I truly felt comfortable.
These rules hold true for everyone, no matter their tenure or experience level. Do not fall in the trap of believing you have reached a point where you no longer need to learn. Yes, you may be at the top of your game, but everyone has room to grow.