How to Reach Your Leadership Development Goals

If you’re a leader or a manager in your company, you might be discouraged by this statistic: 50% of managers eventually fail in their position. How can you avoid becoming part of this statistic?

You might start by setting goals for success, so you don’t end up losing your job or getting burned out and quitting.

If you look at the New York Times bestseller list, you’ll see an entire section of books about business and professional success. Books by successful people are often favorites because we want to find out how to replicate their success in our professional lives.

But, maybe there’s an alternative. Perhaps we can learn more from failure than success.

When you read a book by someone like Bill Gates, you’re reading a very rare story about someone who made it to the top, but we can learn valuable lessons from leaders who failed. When a senior executive flounders, an organization can lose millions of dollars, and both the individual and the organization experience impact to morale.

Principles for Achieving Leadership Development Goals

So, what are some of the fundamental principles for achieving leadership development goals—ideas we can see in success stories and failures? Let’s discuss three of them.

1. Good Relationship Skills

Leadership isn’t about a single-minded drive to the top. Instead, it involves successfully managing your relationships with superiors, colleagues, and staff. Being a good leader also includes strategic networking, effective conflict resolution, and consideration of other people’s needs.

As believers in Christ, we can see that he was the ultimate servant leader and set the example for us. We should strive to be servant leaders, even in our secular careers. Although we should want our organizations to succeed, people always come first. Strong relationships and caring actions can make a lifelong difference, whether or not you experience dazzling financial success.

2. Self-Awareness

Robert Hogan and Rodney Warrenfeltz are organizational scientists who studied factors that influence self-concept. Self-concept is defined as “an idea of the self-constructed from the beliefs one holds about oneself and the responses of others.” How you see yourself can really impact the way you do your job and lead others.

Here are the three influencing factors Hogan and Warrenfeltz identified:

  • Healthy self-esteem. Self-esteem is related to resilience; when you have inner confidence, you’re more likely to learn from failure than remain in defeat. This is partly why people with healthy self-esteem can bounce back when faced with setbacks. They also tend to exude positive energy and are not easily irritated.
  • A positive attitude towards authority. These individuals are compliant, easily managed, and have excellent social skills.
  • Self-discipline. A self-disciplined person can control his or her impulses and appetites, focus on the task at hand, and go along with accepted procedures.

As you consider these factors, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can improve to be a better leader and asset to your organization.

Sometimes leaders don’t consider that the way they act on a personal level within their company needs to be congruent with the way the organization presents itself to the public. Both internal and external values should be aligned for your organization to be trustworthy, and to keep you as a leader in sync with your company’s identity and goals.

3. Humble Confidence

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

There are several characteristics in a leader that increase the likelihood that they will end up failing. Many of these characteristics can be strengths if they are balanced and not extreme, while others are inherently unhealthy.

Here are some examples:

  • Excessive self-confidence, self-esteem, or boldness
  • Habitual risk-taking
  • Being exploitative
  • Wanting to be the center of attention
  • Acting out in strange or unusual ways

Yi Zhang and N. Anand Chandrasekar research organizations in Asia surveyed leaders and found that when asked to rate characteristics that they would need to lead others effectively, these individuals said that every single trait should be strong.

However, the researchers found that it’s not helpful to try to be too strong in every area as a leader; that perspective is correlated with leadership failure. They concluded that leaders who have less of a particular strength can actually be more effective in the long run.

Sometimes, leadership abilities that seem to be assets in the short term end up becoming liabilities in the long run. For example, having high self-confidence and overestimating your skills can make you seem brave, confident, and charismatic in the beginning.

But, eventually, others might see that you are entitled and have trouble acknowledging your mistakes. There are traps inherent in a prideful attitude. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

5 Practical Steps to Achieve your Leadership Development Goals

1. Learn Your Strengths and Weaknesses

What areas of leadership strength and weakness are you aware of in yourself? Once you’ve made a list, talk it over with your colleagues, supervisor, and/or customers. This kind of feedback is known as 360 feedback. It allows you to identify and eliminate weaknesses that are personal blind spots in your work habits and performance.

How do you address your weaknesses?

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Make a concrete plan for how to solve the weak areas daily.
  • Keep a record or journal of your progress.
  • Check in for more 360 feedback in three months.

Asking for possible negative feedback is never enjoyable, and you’ll probably feel vulnerable, but it can help your team connect with you on a more human level and improve your relationships.

When an organization has strong ties, this fosters a climate of empathy and forgiveness of mistakes. This type of atmosphere improves morale, provides a sense of safety, and can lead to personal and organizational growth.

360 feedback is not without its dangers or limitations. Sometimes organizations already have a built-in negative group-think despite your job performance, and there’s not much you can do to overcome it by inviting personal feedback. Sometimes requesting feedback may lead to workers ganging up on you, hurting your chance at a promotion. If the climate at your work does not allow for objective feedback, asking for it won’t accelerate your growth.

If you’re not sure whether 360 feedback would be helpful in your situation, make sure you provide a confidential avenue to receive requested feedback, and that is not used during performance reviews. It should also be constructive, focused on solutions, and a regular part of office culture rather than an unusual, one-time event.

2. Consider the Company Culture

How do you adopt the culture of your organization while being yourself? This doesn’t mean that you just allow the company to influence you; it says you reflect on your part in the culture and how you can be an authentic and cooperative influence in your company.

Take a moral inventory of your workplace behavior. Does it reflect your values as a Christian? Do you act in ways that do not line up with your faith or corporate values and procedures?

As you think about this topic, discuss it with your close peers. Can you work together to improve? As a leader, make sure you regularly communicate values with your team, and how those values align with your organization’s standards. You might meet periodically with other departments, or invite performance evaluations from superiors.

3. Meet with a Christian Coach

Sometimes leaders are motivated by personal gain, rather than a good work ethic and a desire for success. What are some wrong motives/behaviors in leadership?

  • Exploiting others
  • Wielding power
  • Desiring personal recognition
  • Wanting to get ahead at all costs

These motivators might be subtle in the beginning, and then start to grow out of control. If you realize that your motives are sinful, it’s time to step back and evaluate where you are and how you can get to a healthier place.

If you’ve discerned that you need to have healthier motives, consider working with a Christian coach who can hold you accountable and help you reach positive leadership goals.

4. Take Charge of Stress

Stress is the enemy of success. Maybe you have an image in your mind of a successful CEO burning the midnight oil and being a workaholic. But the truth is, this will just lead to burnout.

Sometimes stress is linked with feeling competitive and individualistic. Instead of that mentality, focus on collaboration. Work not only as a team but expand to include other departments if your job allows.

When work is inevitably stressful at times, try to see the big picture and implement healthy coping mechanisms, possibly with the help of your Christian leadership coach.

All the good ideas don’t have to come from you. Cultivating gratitude and humility goes a long way towards stress reduction. Does your company have stress management resources? Again, Christian counseling can not only help you meet your leadership goals but help you manage stress and stay emotionally healthy.

5. Share Authority and Equip your Team

Organizational psychologists Chappelow and Leslie offer valuable suggestions on how to equip your team for success:

  • Use your to-do list to create individualized job responsibilities for members of your team.
  • Rotate those responsibilities as often as you can, based on individual skill levels. This means that each team member will learn new skills and have the opportunity to overcome challenges.
  • Set team goals and monitor them on an ongoing basis. Do your personal leadership goals align with those of your department and the organization as a whole?
  • Use rewards to boost morale. These can be both tangible, such as pay raises and bonuses, or intangible, such as praise and recognition.

As you focus on your personal leadership development and organizational health and achievement, you will find yourself accomplishing goals and moving towards success.

Photos:
“Lifeguard Training”, Courtesy of Margarida CSilva, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Humility”, Courtesy of Matthew Henry, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Masai Mara,” courtesy of Pawan Sharma, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Teamwork,” courtesy of rawpixel.com, unsplash.com, CC0 License