Sparking Your Leadership Journey

Leadership is a hot topic of career conversations and organizational management that fuels a multi-billion-dollar self-help industry. From highly effective habits to leadership models and personal accounts of extraordinary life circumstances — the topic touches everyone in some facet of their career, ranging from receptionists to managers, and directors to C-suite executives.

From an enterprise learning standpoint, the topic is particularly important as you are faced with the responsibility of organizational development and learning strategies that are critical to employee performance and the success of the organization. In fact, data shows that investment in the development of employees can improve productivity by 81 percent, revenue generation by 48 percent, and marketing share by 30 percent. Nevertheless, whether you’re interested in developing your own leadership skill sets or those of your team and/or your organization, it doesn’t require extraordinary tales of war, winning sports championships, or miraculously landing a plane safely on the Hudson. We all have opportunities to lead and grow in our daily lives regardless of our title or role and regardless of what phase of the professional life cycle we are in.

Great leadership begins with a conscious choice and sustained efforts to improve over selves, our awareness and our capabilities to grow fulfillment and success at both the personal and professional levels. No matter what advice you’ve read or heard, it’s important to set standards that align with personal lifestyle, career goals, and organizational mission and culture.

To help, I offer three empowering concepts I’ve found to be successful across many organizational cultures.

1) Rise above and establish your key internal drivers.

Successful leaders are self-aware and able to rise above conflict, inefficiencies and other circumstances that may push internal buttons or misalign with internal drivers. So it’s important to exercise self-awareness, focus, compassion and patience. It’s also important to know your self-worth and believe in the value that you bring to the table.

If you don’t rise above it all, you’re creating unnecessary obstacles that limit your success and advancement. Remember that you’re in charge of creating your destiny. So learn to trust your inner compass.

2) Fine-tune external drivers and use them to inspire others.

How do you inspire others? Great leaders make a genuine effort to understand what is important to those with whom they interact every day. What motivates them, and how do others perceive them?

The best approach is to develop a can-do and collaborative environment by setting the leadership example, and by listening and providing opportunities for others to be creative and to shine. No matter how large or small your sphere of influence may be, promoting a culture of leadership development, enthusiasm, innovation, accountability and transparency are essential foundational elements to building a framework for team and organizational success.

As you go about your everyday projects and tasks, it’s important to create leadership development programs and opportunities for mentoring and coaching, as well as clearly identify leadership talent for all levels of the organization.

Ultimately, consider that many organizations have found success by aligning individual leadership strengths and skills with broader organizational needs and strategies.

Dave Karpen talks about simple, but key, principles that make successful leaders: the ability to listen and engage in collaboration as a team player; to demonstrate respect and offer recognition to others; and to act with humility and integrity. Karpen explains that although these concepts above are simple, people do tend to forget them.

3) Become your best by focusing on lifelong learning and inspiring others.

Another way of sparking your authentic leadership style is to help establish a culture and mindset poised for lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is essential for keeping pace with industry and leadership trends and to supporting organizational competitiveness and sustainability.

Effective and dynamic leaders are up-to-date on the most current information. They develop fresh ideas and harness best practices. As a leader, you’re not only responsible for self-development, but for engaging and inspiring others, helping them to develop and achieve their highest potential.

Dr. David G. Javitch accurately points out that you must be seen as the expert in your field, highly credentialed and capable of leading to success in order to be respected and followed. Ask yourself this question: What will it take for you to become this person?

Becoming a leader is a personal journey. It takes effort, persistence, dedication, practice and patience. There is a learning curve, but the experiential process helps you evolve over time and hone insights and skills that enable you to make a meaningful contribution to your organizational culture and its bottom line.

—Tatiana Sehring, who wrote this article, is director of Corporate & Strategic Relationships for American Public University.

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