Are you an aspiring leader? Take some time to put together a personal leadership development plan. AMA CEO Edward Reilly offers insights to help you grow into a leader in his book AMA Business Boot Camp: Management and Leadership Fundamentals That Will See You Successfully Through Your Career. Here are some tips from his book to improve your leadership skills.
Make a list of 10-15 qualities that reflect the skills, traits, competencies, abilities, and experience of a good leader. A few of them should be specific to your work environment. Here are three to get started:
- Seek out the tough jobs and take full responsibility for the outcome.
- Tackle problems head-on and find ways to overcome obstacles.
- Forecast and manage change; overcome resistance to change.
Give yourself an “S” for each one that is one of your strengths or a “D” for each one that needs development.
Behavior of a leader
Think about your behavior and rank specific behaviors around the acronym SPARK:
- Share information.
- Play to strengths.
- Ask for input and appreciate different ideas.
- Recognize and Respond to individual needs.
- Keep your commitments.
Your personal leadership development plan expresses the “how” of SPARK. For example, in the context of your work environment, you may have a combination of team members who are physically present and virtually present. In sharing information, consider how technology allows you to bring them together so you don’t leave some people out of the loop—even temporarily. In your plan, consider whether the nature of your work and your team requires regularly scheduled meetings or meeting on an as-needed basis. If you see the need for a regularly scheduled meeting, what is the maximum amount of time you want to allocate for it? If the latter, how much lead time will people need before the meeting occurs? Remember that a plan is not a set of rules; it’s a fluid document that will evolve as your management skills mature and your team and priorities change.
Develop measures of success
Leadership is a process involving the SPARK behaviors in the day-to-day management of your team as you aim for a goal together. In your plan, list the ten critical indicators of success, and answer the key question associated with each one when you periodically review your plan:
- Accomplishment of work: Is the work being completed to standard?
- Increased quality: Is the quality of work getting better?
- Improved teamwork: Is the team becoming stronger?
- Improved morale: Is the team developing a sense of pride?
- Increased delegation: Are you delegating more and more work?
- Empowerment: Are you sharing power with those prepared to assume it?
- Stabilized systems: Are you creating systems and routines for all major processes and functions?
- Strategic planning and preparation: Are you doing long-term planning and preparation?
- Continuous learning: Is the team learning new things?
- Recognition and rewards: Are people being recognized and rewarded for their contributions?
Leveraging your personal style
As part of your plan, find out more about your personality and predispositions by taking tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Tests like this are meant to enhance your self-awareness. Note: They are not meant to limit your thinking about who you are or what you might become!
In your efforts to gain additional insights into your personal style, remember your body language. Posture, gestures, and vocal characteristics are all part of the important non-verbal communication that helps you establish yourself as a leader. Plan to improve them. For example, make a commitment to:
- Stand tall or sit tall. Avoid slouching.
- Move with purpose; take deliberate and measured steps.
- Move with energy, direction, and focus.
Building power and influence
Influence and power are energizing forces that move projects forward and get work done. They are indispensable tools of leaders. Build into your plan benchmarks to help you ascertain how you’re progressing in building power and influence.
In your plan, challenge yourself to improve in areas such as:
- Having clarity of goals and strategy before presenting your ideas
- Grasping the priorities of people you are trying to influence
- Securing commitments from people to get what you want
- Helping your team visualize success
To create your personal leadership plan, you will begin with self-assessment, but it’s not a step that you leave behind forever once it’s complete. As with all the above elements in the plan, you will want to revisit them so that the plan continues to help you grow in your leadership role.
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