Professional Development: 10 ways to tap into your leadership potential

You’ve heard the old, trite expression “born leader." Many people in today’s business world actually ascribe to this concept and place themselves somewhere down the ladder when their deep desire is to lead. Others believe that they can only play a role in leadership if they are corporate politicians. Leadership is a skill that may be developed and executed if a businessperson will take the time to invest in his or herself. Years ago Earl Nightengale made a statement that changed many people’s lives. It went something like this:

“If you will invest one hour a day in educating yourself in your field, in three to five years you will be an expert.”

Consider a somewhat modified approach that takes Mr. Nightengale’s thoughts and applies them to leadership. You already have expertise in your industry. Start building that knowledge base each day for 45 minutes. Focus another 15 minutes on how you can develop leadership skills that will have an impact on your business and that industry.

Begin by thinking about the processes that are effective now and how technology, growth, and world market trends will impact that industry in the next 5-7 years. Try to consider approaches that other industries use that are not in use in your industry now. Review and update regularly.

Learn to Create a "Desire to Be Led"

Your approach to becoming an effective leader must possess a deliberate focus on how people want to be led-not how you want to lead. What many people in positions of authority forget is an appropriate perspective of how to execute the role. People will only allow you to lead if you consider and implement an approach that provides them with a desire to be led.

  1. Leadership should not be considered from a “top down” perspective.Instead, consider the pyramid from an inverted position. Your responsibility is to find ways to support and enhance the management, supervisory, and departmental staff’s efforts. What can you do to enhance their productive efforts?
  1. Leadership requires that many jobs be completed. There is seemingly less time for people. People are opportunities for leadership, not just interruptions. The greater the leadership role, the more you will need people. Invest in others regardless of their position or role in your long-term goal.
  1. Almost 70 years ago, Maslow told us there is a hierarchy of needs with love and esteem at the top. Leaders know that their people thrive on praise and affirmation. The soft sciences, through the development of people skills, are the keys to getting things done.
  1. Consider meeting or partnering with people who might be considered less conventional. They will help you think outside the institutional box and allow creativity, which may provide a unique marketing position for your product or service. Creativity and imagination are no longer something to be considered; they are a must for success.
  1. Decide today that you, given the opportunity, will not be a dictator in your leadership position. View your team members as stockholders. They have something to offer your organization. Ensure that the person performing each function has some input in how the task is done.
  1. Micromanagement is a sign of poor management with a lot of strings attached. People will inevitably make mistakes, but they will learn from them. Give them guidelines, based on their personality needs, and then allow them to follow through and acquire their own leadership style.
  1. Never underestimate the role of communication. The larger the organization, the greater the need for communication and the more impact the rumor mill has on morale and productivity. With your team members, consider ways to interact personally with every individual within the organization as often as possible.
  1. Never underestimate the power of your company’s corporate culture. This should be your priority. Organizational growth and performance will most often suffer from loss of the original entrepreneurial drive that made it successful. Promote the vision and reason for your company’s existence.
  1. Don’t let your personal pride get in the way of grooming successors. Finishing well is an important part of successful leadership. Mentoring can be challenging, but it's also one of the most rewarding roles of your career.
  1. Your future is coming at breakneck speed. You must learn from the past, but never focus on it. Your vision must be your preoccupation with a constant desire to reinvent yourself and your business dream.

Make the time and set aside the money you need to invest in yourself. According to Colin Rose, author of Accelerate Learning for the 21st Century, we must “master the forces of speed, complexity and uncertainty . . . to learn fast and think creatively." You can only do that if you have the knowledge, skills, and desire to lead with confidence as well as competence.

Your unique leadership skills can be developed if you invest in yourself.