Most leaders regularly update their mobile devices. They update their laptops, and many update their professional photos. But as a leader, are you updating your leadership skills and behaviors? Are you appreciating or depreciating as an asset?
If all your time is spent leading, working in the organization, or even working on the organization, but not working on yourself, you are likely depreciating.
According to the book Leadership 2050, “The qualities of effective leadership can be paradoxical—requiring effective leaders to be passionate and unbiased, detailed and strategic, hard driving and sustainable, fact-based and intuitive, self-confident and selfless—all often at the same time. Such complexity is rarely found in leaders even under optimal conditions.”
I have spoken with thousands of leaders. Most had never considered that their leadership skills could depreciate. They were dedicated to doing a great job for their organizations, which generally meant long hours working on everything but themselves. The negative impact to the business was unavoidable.
If you are depreciating, what can you do about it?
The world is changing at an unprecedented rate that is expected to continue to accelerate. Some changes will solve major problems we face and at the same time create challenges and opportunities we never imagined. The key for leaders to remain effective in an ever-changing environment is to develop the habit of continually investing time to update how they lead or, as I call it, update their leadership algorithm.
This habit can take many forms that range from reading an occasional blog or listening to a podcast to taking a more systematic approach. A systematic approach might involve an annual process of scanning the environment for changes and building an annual development plan that allows the leader to stay ahead of those changes. This annual process can be part of an organizational development process or part of one’s personal commitment to develop. People often revisit these plans on the New Year’s holiday or their birthday, asking, “How will I invest in myself this year?” Unlike New Year’s resolutions, however, I recommend an approach that you can sustain throughout the year.
The following section walks you through a six-step process I use with clients (and wrote about in my book Innovative Leadership Fieldbook) to help them update their leadership skills.
- Start with understanding your individual vision and values. Even if you are clear on them, it is a useful exercise to revisit and confirm your vision and values.
- Do an "environmental scan." This helps you understand emerging trends that may not have been visible the last time you did this. It also helps you assess your strengths and opportunities so you can identify where to focus your annual development time and energy. This is a critical step, as it helps you understand where you may be at risk based on environmental changes. Since most leaders have very little time to invest in learning and development, focus on identifying the highest-impact opportunities. This may mean building on your strengths and realigning work to minimize the impact your weaknesses have on the organization.
- Develop a plan. Once you can see the gaps between where you want to be and where you are right now, it is time to develop a realistic plan that you can truly commit to sticking with all year. Some goals may be shorter term, so you may be able to take on something else. Either way, it is critical to define an achievable plan that you can sustain and measure to monitor your success.
- Building your team and communicating. When leaders change their leadership behaviors, they impact others. It is important to communicate your expectations to others about how your changes will impact them and what changes you might expect from them. This is also the time to select accountability partners and experts to support your success, which could look something like selecting a running partner on one end of the spectrum and a coach on the other.
- Execute the plan. After you create the plan and identify who will be impacted and who will support it, it is time to put your plan into action, identifying barriers and enablers. As you move forward and monitor your progress, you will want to measure your success and refine your plan in some areas.
- Embed changes into your work and life. After you have executed your plan, these changes will become your new habits—a way of life. It is when your thinking and behavior shift that you will truly sustain the changes you have invested in. What do you need to put into place so you can retain the successes you accomplished and build on them as the foundation for next year?
Development requires perseverance and discipline. For many leaders, it is helpful to have a discrete process with corresponding time and measures established in advance so they can protect their development time just as they would protect a key client meeting.
Leaders begin to depreciate if they don’t continually update their leadership algorithm, but it is never too early to get started. The approach described here has been invaluable to my clients, particularly when followed faithfully. In tailoring the steps to meet your specific need, be aware of opportunities to engage yourself—and others—in the process differently than you may have in the past.
For a deeper dive, join me at the ATD 2018 International Conference & EXPO for the session: Leadership 2050: The Evolution of Leadership.
Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from Forbes.