by Mary Ann Gontin
Leadership is one of the hottest topics in recent years. Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written and continue to be written about leadership – like this one!
Through my executive coaching and organizational development work, I have focused more than half of my career on working with organizations and their leaders on developing or improving leadership skills. And I love it! I have come to see that the pursuit of understanding the elusiveness of leadership is a healthy sign of an organization and individual. When people think they have figured out the leadership puzzle, hubris sets in and growth stops.
Here is what I see as the 5 healthy signs of continued growth in those focused on leadership roles:
1. High level of curiosity – Growing leaders are always on the hunt to learn something new. Sometimes they are learning something obviously connected with their business, but often it’s something that appears to be far afield from their everyday work.
2. Willingness to engage in meaningful feedback discussions – This does not mean growing leaders welcome or are comfortable in giving or receiving feedback. Most importantly, they are willing to risk discomfort and take the time to receive (or give) feedback in order to help themselves and others grow.
3. Ask for help – Growing leaders are not afraid to admit they don’t know everything and proactively reach out to those they identify as experts or specialists. In my executive coaching practice, I respect and admire those who many people see as highly competent and successful openly engage coaches and other subject matter experts as part of their team.
4. Find ways to engage with their employees and customers – They work hard to spend more time away from their desk than at it and understand that the time they spend with employees and customers really is an important element of their job.
5. Share stories – They tell stories to reveal who they are and what is important to them. Sometimes the stories are about them; sometimes they are about other people. But by sharing stories, they are letting others into their inner core. They also are good at asking their employees and customers to share stories – and then they listen. It circles back to having a high level of curiosity.
Organizations and individuals who truly believe in the importance of leadership development will demonstrate these 5 signs in the midst of getting their work done. Sometimes there is a need for a culture change within an organization to encourage the development of these ways of working.
Individuals who come to see how important these approaches are will eventually leave an organization if they are not encouraged and recognized for demonstrating these signs.
I suggest we all step back periodically and ask ourselves: are we actively engaging in this behavior? If not, what’s stopping us?
Do you have other examples of healthy behaviors that you believe those who are focused on becoming leaders or improving as leaders demonstrate? Please share your observations.
Mary Ann Gontin is Managing Partner of OI Partners – Cunis & Gontin, Inc. in Connecticut. Her firm has been providing human resources consulting services since 1974. Mary Ann has become recognized by clients for her ability to identify organizational and individual performance issues and propose creative and practical solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-473-4507.