Two Powerful Acts of Leadership

Learning and Leadership

I have studied, practiced, taught, and coached leadership for over two decades.  The best leaders I have worked with have this in common:  they are intentional about learning, growing, and expanding their capabilities.  Consider the world we live in.  Radical disruption from the COVID-19 crisis with entire industries being impacted.  An ever-changing workforce with multiple generations. Ongoing changes in technology, and the rise of social media.  Because of this relentless change, leaders must evolve more quickly to keep pace.  President John F. Kennedy said it well.  “Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.”  While all this may be a blinding flash of the obvious, what may not be obvious is how we can accelerate the expansion of our own leadership capabilities?

Two acts of leadership

Consider these two acts of leadership as a starting point for expanding your leadership capacity:  Courage and wisdom.  Not as concepts or principles, but as actions.

Courage is the first act of leadership

The practice of leadership requires many acts of courage.  Having the tough conversations.  Challenging the status quo.  Making the hard decisions.  Taking calculated risks.  Leading change.  Speaking truth to power.  All of these acts build our leadership muscles.  However, the first act of courage that enables all others is the act of taking a cold, hard look at ourselves as leaders.  Consider these questions as a starting point.  Many are framed in the context of the changing world we live in.

  1. What strengths do I have that serve me well in this changing world?
  2. How can I build on these strengths?
  3. What strengths do I lean on that may not be relevant today?
  4. How do identify them and learn to play new music?
  5. What weaknesses do I have that will handicap me going forward?
  6. How do I strengthen them? Can I mitigate them through the strengths of others?
  7. What blind spots do I have, particularly as it relates to the new business realities we face?
  8. What bad behaviors do I have that limit my effectiveness?
  9. Who do I trust to give me candid, constructive feedback to gain a clearer picture of myself as a leader?

Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.”  While courage is a human quality, this quality comes from acting with courage.  The first act is coming face-to-face with ourselves.  It is courageous because it is hard.  It is also what separates us from the pack.

Wisdom is the second act of leadership

Making the decision to get support is an act of wisdom.  There is too much at stake to go it alone in our leadership journey.  High performers in many professions surround themselves with a support system.  Following are three ways to build a support system to expand your capabilities.

  1. A mentor or mentors.  Mentors can come from within the organization you work for, or outside the organization.  There are benefits to both.  One understands the organization and its dynamics, while the other brings a fresh, outside perspective.  Mentors can be great sounding boards to challenge or validate our thinking.
  2. A leadership or executive coach. Coaches are professionally trained and skilled in holding a mirror up to see ourselves more clearly.  They are experts at asking the right questions to expand our thinking.  They can hold us accountable for doing the work necessary in achieving the goals we set for ourselves.  I have been on both sides of mentoring and coaching and have experienced the value of both.
  3. A master-mind group. These are groups of like-minded professionals that meet on a regular basis to support each other’s growth.  They are a great source of diverse thinking that expands our own thinking.  They can become a network for lifelong professional relationships that are beneficial to all.  I am a member of a mastermind group within The C-Suite Network.  C-Suite is a network of like-minded executives, consultants, coaches, and entrepreneurs that are masterful at leveraging each other’s knowledge and strengths.  Being a member of this network has allowed me to share my knowledge and experiences with other members while expanding my own from the experiences of these same colleagues.  This network has accelerated my own development as I have transitioned from a 30-year corporate career to being a business owner.  Having a professional facilitator is essential to a successful mastermind group.

To your growth!

Mark Hinderliter, PhD, CPC is a Veteran-Owned business owner that works with client companies in creating great workplaces that impact performance.  His insights come from three decades in the corporate arena, most recently as a Senior Vice-President for a billion-dollar global company.

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