I just returned from five days at the National Speakers Association conference in Denver, Colorado, where I had the opportunity to learn from the best speakers in the world on how they grow their businesses and stay relevant for their clients. These sessions were invaluable—hearing what worked, what didn’t, and the different approaches speakers take in working with clients and making an impact. I took copious notes which sparked many ideas I hadn’t thought of before.
This conference is one of several professional development sessions I attend each year to develop myself as a professional and business owner. In fact, every year I increase the amount of money I allocate for professional development. I have seen a direct connection between my personal and business growth and the amount I invest in myself.
Most of us didn’t receive any management training before—or even after—we were promoted to a leadership role. Most professional jobs—whether it’s a chef, a pilot, a lawyer, a doctor, or even your local barista—require some kind of training or certification. Leadership is the exception. There is a common practice that is contributing to mediocre and bad cultures in organizations; promoting technical superstars into leadership roles. This practice does a disservice to the person being promoted, their employees, and the overall culture. The competencies required in a technical role are different from what is important in a leadership role. And we need to invest in our managers and executives to teach them modern leadership skills that bring out the best in employees and build exceptional organizational cultures.
The best leaders proactively seek out professional development and never stop investing in themselves. And it doesn’t matter the level of leadership. The most successful CEOs, executives, directors, managers, and supervisors never think they have learned all they need to know. Smart leaders understand that they are never done learning. Learning is a lifelong process that never ends. I am amazed at how many executives feel they don’t need professional development once they have attained an executive role. The work doesn’t end when you are a leader. In fact, it’s just beginning.
The best keep getting better. The best leaders always think there is more to learn.
Below are some ways to invest in yourself:
Read and listen. Consistently read books and articles that help you develop your leadership skills and spark new ideas. Listen to podcasts. There are so many powerful podcasts where leadership influencers are interviewed. I listen while I’m in the car so my commute becomes learning.
A few of my favorite leadership books:
- The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
- The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell
- Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
- Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman
- Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
A few of my favorite podcasts:
- The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
- The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes
- Lead to Win by Michael Hyatt
- Harvard Business Review
- CEO World
Attend conferences inside and outside of your industry. Regularly attending conferences gets you out of the office (an environment of distractions and meetings) and into a space of learning, innovation, and growth. I am always amazed at how different and energized I feel after attending a conference where I learn about better ways of doing things and have the space to think differently. Conferences in your industry or functional area are helpful to build skills and educate yourself on trends, and conference outside your industry can bring fresh perspectives and new ideas.
Attend local events. Your industry association will likely have one day events and conferences for professional development. Don’t wait to be asked to attend. Take charge of your own development. Research your association website and ask your manager to attend an event.
Find an internal mentor or coach. You don’t have to leave the office to develop yourself as a leader or professional. Find a leader in your organization who you respect and want to learn from, and approach them about forming a more formal relationship. Be prepared with how you would like to use your time together and have specific questions ready. You want to take ownership of this relationship and not leave the work for the mentor/coach. Sometimes these relationships naturally form and aren’t always a formal relationship, so utilize the expertise, experience, and coaching of well-respected leaders in your company.
Great leaders are always evolving. In order to successfully fulfill the responsibility of leadership, we need to consciously develop ourselves so we can serve others.