Leaders: It’s Time to Take Charge of Your Professional Development

Take Charge of Your Professional Development

No matter where you are in your career, it’s up to you to take responsibility for your professional development.

During a recent episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, I was reminded of former president John F. Kennedy’s perception that, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” During the show, a working mother/entrepreneur was denied funding for her small business. Though the business was in decent shape and showed promising opportunity for growth, the investors felt she was hesitant and unwilling to learn new skills and behaviors that would be critical for the success of her company — a recipe for disaster not only for a small business owner, but for any leader in today’s complex marketplace.

Research from the Center for Creative Leadership has found that it is becoming more critical for business and organizational leaders to take ownership of their own learning. Unfortunately, many people continue to feel that professional development is solely someone else’s responsibility, such as human resources, staff development, or their immediate boss. This limiting belief can stunt your growth as a leader.

Leaders develop and grow more effectively when they own their personal and professional development. Here are three ways to gain new skills and build critical self-awareness:

  • Participate in leadership competency assessments. Consider launching a 360-degree feedback survey. This approach provides the opportunity for leaders to collect perceptions about their performance from a wide range of colleagues. This may include a leader’s peers, direct reports, immediate boss and/or other superiors. As the Center for Creative Leadership explains, “The benefit of collecting data of this kind is that the person gets to see a panorama of perceptions rather than just self-perception, which affords a more complete picture.”
  • Initiate a relationship with a mentor. Mentors can support your professional development by providing guidance in pursuit of reaching your goals. When seeking out a mentor look for someone whom you respect and admire ­— someone who talks the talk and walks the walk. Furthermore, mentors with excellent listening skills and the ability to ask thought-provoking questions are best equipped to help you think through situations and challenges you may be facing.
  • Enroll in an accredited leadership development program. Leadership development programs come in all shapes and sizes. Some organizations offer their own internal programs; others partner with external leadership development learning organizations. In either case, the ultimate goal is providing a safe learning environment to gain new skills and share experiences with other leaders. These programs can fuel your leadership maturity, resulting in growth of your overall leadership effectiveness.    

At the end of the day, I feel you have a crucial choice to make: Do you want to be a leader who continues to grow and inspires others to follow, or run the risk of becoming a stagnate manager or executive who’s falling behind the times?   

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