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ATD Blog

Maximizing Your Leadership Career

Monday, March 2, 2020

Are leaders born or are they developed? Have you ever heard that question? When you think about great leaders, who comes to mind? What characteristics makes them great? How would you rate yourself? What do you need to do differently? How can you be different?

Becoming a great leader is a lifelong journey and commitment. It’s the result of years of intentional focus, practice, and reflection. I have worked with many leaders over the years. I’ve had my own challenges, successes, and failures. I strive every day to be the best person and leader I can be at work, at home, and in my community. Through my learning and experiences over the years, I’ve developed my Leadership CAREER Model.

C: Care about and connect authentically with others.

A key factor is connecting with others and for enabling them to feel cared for and valued. This builds trust and loyalty. It’s about understanding others and authentically connecting on a deeper, personal level centered around values, beliefs, and principles.

A: Acknowledge and express appreciation and gratitude.

An important practice is to acknowledge and express appreciation and gratitude for the contributions of others. Often the efforts of others are overlooked or taken for granted. Recognition doesn’t need to be monetary or involve a lot pomp and circumstance. A simple thank you, a personal note, or words of acknowledgement will go a long way.


R: Respect, honor, and value yourself and others.

Inherent within every human is a natural desire to be valued, honored, and respected for our uniqueness, talents, and what we contribute, however great or small. It is important for leaders to be true to themselves, to follow their inner compass, and to understand, respect, and honor theirs and others’ values.

E: Establish and communicate a clear vision, goals, objectives, and expectations.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up anywhere. Be clear about your vision and where you want to go. Clearly communicate your vision, goals, and expectations. Being clear motivates others and gives them a sense of direction and purpose. People want to be inspired and contribute to something meaningful. Create an environment where they can flourish.


E: Execute consistently and follow through on your commitments.

Integrity, integrity, integrity. Without integrity, honesty, and trust, a leader will accomplish little. Building and maintaining trust by honoring your word and following through on commitments, no matter how large or small, is paramount to your credibility. It is not always possible to keep your word, but you can always honor your word. Producing consistent results is critical and builds trust. Talk with no action is meaningless.

R: Reflect and continually learn, grow, and develop.

Leaders must continually learn, grow, and develop as well as support and champion others to do the same. Establish a routine, heighten your self-awareness, learn from failure, celebrate success, hone your strengths, and develop and manage your weaknesses. Continually learn, grow, and adapt to the world around you. The day we stop learning and growing is the day we die.

By striving to be the best leaders and people we can be and supporting others to do the same, I believe that focusing on these six critical elements will foster environments where every individual will have a more successful and meaningful career.

Want to learn more? Check out my session, Maximizing Your Leadership Career Success, at the ATD 2020 International Conference & EXPO.

About the Author

Brian McNamara is chief learning officer for the International Trade Administration.

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