To be an effective leader, it’s crucial to be a lifelong learner. Admittedly, some types of learning are more useful than others, and the term “professional development” often gets tossed around as if it’s a cliché. Real-life experience is key — that’s true. But there are also many things you can do to weave professional development throughout your life in a holistic way. Here are a few ideas.
1. Cultivate Your Mindset
Set up healthy rhythms for your mornings so that you have a clear, receptive mind as the day progresses. It might include exercise, meditation, or inspirational reading. It’s sort of like tilling and fertilizing a garden so that good fruit will grow. Then, give yourself the margin to map out time for professional development, selecting small learning “modules” regularly.
2. Build Your Self-Awareness
It might sound like an old-fashioned maxim, but it’s critical for you to be self-aware to be an effective leader. Be intentional and deliberate about compassionately observing yourself as you go about your workday, being mindful of the reactions of others. Then when you have time, consider what you have observed and make necessary positive adjustments.
3. Find Mentors
Find people who have been in a similar professional situation, and develop non-transactional relationships with them. You’ll gather quite a bit from not only what they say and do, but also the quality of their presence. Coaches or mentors also have perspective and are in a position to give you honest feedback that you may not receive in your workplace. Mentorship can develop IRL, online, or as you simply observe a leader (while maintaining good interpersonal boundaries).
4. Teach What You Know
Teaching what you know (even something you are in the process of learning) is one of the most powerful ways to evaluate and reinforce your own development. Imparting your knowledge and skills to others helps you see the material in new ways; you might find that your mentees teach you more than you teach them! Even if it’s in short time increments, seek out opportunities to teach.
5. Seek Feedback
Most high-level leaders actively seek out feedback. Follow their lead. Anyone who is in a position to provide useful input, whether they’re on your board, employees, or other stakeholders can be a valuable source of information. If it’s possible for you to receive anonymous feedback, try an appropriate system.
Professional development is more flexible than you may think. Try these tips to kickstart the process.