In a previous blog, I shared this quote from Harold Geneen: “Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned.” Most of the time, leadership is learned in the crucible of action. When a person is thrust into the midst of a situation where he or she must act, the stage is set to learn about leadership. Although effective leaders draw on their values, skills, and past experiences, they can use the challenges of their present assignments to hone their leadership abilities and grow as leaders. There are several ways to do this.
First, an effective leader will make time for reflection. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” As busy as he was, Jesus found time to retreat for prayer and meditation. Each of us, whether leader or not, needs time to be alone to think, meditate, and/or pray. As we do so, we hear another voice that gives insight and clarity to the difficult situations we often find ourselves in.
A second way to grow as a leader in times of challenge is “just in time” training. No matter how much time one spends in formal education or workshops, opportunities will emerge that require new skills or knowledge. This may come in the form of reading and personal research. The leader may also avail himself or herself of a mentor to teach the skills needed or take advantage of seminars or online courses. “Just in time” learning gives the leader the opportunity to try out new skills and knowledge immediately in real world situations and reinforce what has been learned.
Peer groups are a third source of learning for leaders, especially groups of individuals who are dealing with the same issues. The help comes not so much in advice offered but in the clarification that comes from questions, the encouragement of others who are going through the same thing, and the resources shared by others.
Fourth, a leader can benefit from personal coaching. Whether this person is called a personal coach, a life coach, an executive coach, or a leadership coach, a trained coach comes alongside in order to help the leader follow his or her own agenda. The coach helps the client assess his or her situation, determine the direction the client wants to go, consider the client’s resources, assist the client to develop his or her goals and action steps to reach those goals, and provides encouragement and accountability as the client pursues the desired change. A good model for coaching to deal with one’s current issues is the Leadership Coaching Project of Pinnacle Leadership Associates which will begin with a three day retreat in November and continue with six months of coaching.
All of these strategies take time and commitment, but they will help leaders not only to survive but to prosper as they face the challenges that come their way daily.