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This post is part of PCDN’s Future of Work in Social Change 2018 Career Series. For more details click here.
According to Google, there are 208,000,000 articles on how to grow as a leader. This isn’t one of those posts. Rather, it’s a mini-guide complete with plenty of research and resource to help you take practical steps to developing your leadership skills.
So what does the research say about how can you actually grow as a leader?
The research is pretty clear on this topic: If you want to grow as an empathic and purpose-driven leader, you should follow these 7 steps as part of a transformative process that will be sure to get you there:
Step #1: Set goals, write them down, and tell a friend.
Don’t skip step #1. In fact, the best leaders over-invest in this stage. Write your goals using a SMART format. When you have them, tell a friend and/or mentor. Doing both of these steps will increase the likelihood that you will achieve it (research proves it).
Step #2: Better understand yourself
Most people don’t know their own leadership styles nearly as well as they might think. If you’re going to grow as a leader, you first have to know where to grow from. These 3 simple steps will help:
- Talk to your friends and colleagues and ask them for honest responses to the questions of: What are the leadership qualities you should stop exhibiting, keep exhibiting, and start exhibiting (stop, keep, start for short).
- Understand your purpose drivers and what motivates you to lead. The Purpose Economy and Imperative Assessment can help you understand this better
- Think about the work you do that actually makes you come alive. Dan Pink’s RSA talk about motivation and book about Drive will add a lot of clarity in your search.
Step #3: Build on Your Strengths
Growing as a leader is HARD work, and it’ll be hard on you. You’ll expose yourself to lots of questions, self-doubt, and even isolation. That’s why you want to build your leadership style on your strengths. How? I recommend reading about Strengths Based Leadership. Figure out the type of leadership strengths you have, and build on those. After deciding on this and getting your baseline, you might want to go back to Step #1 briefly to adjust your goals.
Step #4: Learn New Concepts
The more you lead, the less technical know-how you need. Instead, you need to get better at using frameworks that help other people succeed. For this, there is no better than design thinking. Improving your ability to empathize, understand problems, be creative, develop lean solutions, and then test & learn is essential to growing. Growing managerial skills as well, like peer-based coaching, can truly help you become the leader you are capable of being.
Step #5: Get a Stretch Experience
Even though this step is buried in the middle, this is actually the keystone of your growth. If you want to lead at the next level, you have to get practice leading at the next level. As we published in Harvard Business Review, social impact experiences offer an incredible opportunity to stretch yourself to learn and grow.
Step #6: Reflect, Practice, Reflect, Practice, and then Reflect Some More
With 99% confidence, you’re going to skip this step. In fact, we almost didn’t include it because you most likely will pass on it. However, reflection is actually where the future behavior change happens. The science behind this is fascinating. Practice and reflection helps build and strengthen neural networks in your brain, which enables you to actually develop your skills and change your behavior.
Step #7: Teach Back
Find some way to teach back. This can be a blog post, your own portfolio website, presenting at a local event, or transferring these very skills to groups that you volunteer with or mentor. We always recommend that every participant in our program keep a consistent personal journal and public blog to document their experience.
We know this is a lot of hard work, so perhaps my best piece of advice to rule these all, is to first find a community that will partner with you in growth. To do so, I recommend joining a fellowship program designed to help you grow as a leader. The MovingWorlds Institute follows this very rigours transformative learning model, but it’s not the only one, and if you stay subscribed to PCDN you’ll be notified of other programs that offer the same. But do your homework – not all programs are created equal, and if you’re looking to grow as a leader to help solve the challenges facing our planet, then make sure the program you apply to will truly help you transform into the leader you are destined to be.