What you need to break into the next level of leadership
Posted on September 21, 2016
By Emily McCutcheon
The business landscape changes more quickly than ever now, and we are facing massive changes in the demographics of the workforce as well as disruption. So what is it that makes some leaders so much more successful than others?
When you think of leaders who are widely recognized for their work, there’s always something that sets them apart – a personal style, a unique approach, and a self-awareness that is difficult to develop. But it can be done! So what do you need to break through to the next level?
A different way of thinking about leadership
Leadership isn’t a one size fits all proposition. Different leadership styles work better for different leaders and different organizational cultures. So when you’re developing your leadership skills, you should think about it from a very personal perspective. What are your particular strengths and weaknesses? Where should you devote more time? How are you assessing what you need to work on as well as the progress you’ve made a few months later?
You can’t address your personal development in a short period of time and then carry on as normal. True leadership comes from an ongoing process of continual self-assessment and re-alignment.
The right management, leadership, and engagement models and systems for your personal style
There are a lot of historical and new leadership models, and they may have worked for you in the past, but they all have the same flaw: they’re not yours. A model is only a construct – it can’t accurately represent reality. Instead of getting locked in to a single model, combine models, even if they seem to be in opposition to each other. Keep an eye out for new models from which you can borrow bits and pieces.
The best leadership model is one that you piece together yourself, integrating from other models the parts and pieces that work best for you and your context. Give yourself the time to create and develop a new insight before moving ahead.
A more conscious and intentional manner of leading
Soft skills are some of the hardest skills to learn. Cognitive intelligence will help you handle the day to day quantitative challenges – financial reports and operational issues, for example – but emotional intelligence will give you the capability to use emotions to facilitate performance. By understanding the causes of emotions in yourself and others, you’ll be able to see underneath what people say or do and address the real issues at hand.
And part of that is being conscious of how you come off to others, as well. What messages are your words and actions communicating other than the bare facts? How does your attitude or emotional state change your message? Take the time to pause and reflect before answering or offering your own input. You’ll be surprised by the results.
Self-awareness and wellness strategies
Too often people say leadership when they mean management. Management focuses on external forces and how you can best direct and support your staff. Leadership starts with you. How self-aware are you? Are you balanced physically, emotionally, mentally? Are you resilient?
To keep up with the high demands of senior leadership positions, you need a mindfulness strategy and practice that will ensure your wellness and ability to defeat overwhelm. Integrating mindfulness practices into your daily routine can either be the easiest part of your leadership development or the hardest, but either way it is one of the most important facets.
A coach who knows how to ask the right questions
The benefits of mentorship and coaching are invaluable. Finding the right coach means finding someone who will do more than just offer solutions. The right coach should instead ask you the right questions so you can discover the solutions or next steps that work best for you.
A coach who immediately offers advice or solutions instead of asking questions might not get to the real issue at hand. Your challenges are personal and specific, and they should be treated that way by both you and your coach.
Intensive programs can deliver skills and present new theories, but for real progress, you need to change the way you think about and engage in the act of leadership. A longer, more thorough program that follows up with your progress and personal journey is key to making real change and accomplishing your leadership goals.
Rotman’s Executive Leadership program
combines a thorough pre-program assessment, a 5-day intensive and multiple touchpoints over an 8-month period to truly develop your personal capabilities.