You are moving up in your career and have set leadership development goals for yourself and perhaps your workplace. But why is it that some leaders you see around you are able to secure their spot and continue working as executives, while other promising candidates either quit, get fired, or demoted? It may be a surprise to you that recent research reports that about 50% of managers will eventually not work out.
In light of this, it’s no surprise that some of the most popular New York Times bestsellers are articles and books on success. Humanity is obsessed with people like Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who in 2014 resumed his position as the world’s richest man. Are Gates’ many books popular because of his wealth?
Learning from Failure
Focusing on success can be misleading. If you focus on success, it’s easy to assume the road was smooth and easy. All we need to do is emulate the successful, and our roads will be easy too. However, looking at leaders who have failed can teach us what values withstand failure and are keys to success. The financial and psychological impact of an unsuccessful senior executive can be devastating on a company. It costs both the workers and the company a lot.
To further your leadership and avoid such devastating losses, here are three keys principles to employ while seeking to achieve your leadership development goals:
Maintain Good Relationship Skills
Good leaders are always working on their people skills because they get that people are important! They develop and upkeep a strategic network, deal with conflict well, have diplomacy, and consider other people and their needs first. Good leaders are people who sharpen their relationship skills. Jesus showed us what servant leadership is, and now we follow in his example.
Christians should be concerned with people first and the overall mission second. Developing strong relationships and caring for the people in our organization are pivotal to success. Always be looking for chances to meet new people and take a risk by getting to know who you work with on a personal basis.
Seek Christian Counseling to Know Yourself
Organizational scientists Robert Hogan and Rodney Warrenfeltz discovered three factors that shape your self-concept. The first is self-esteem. People with self-esteem can suffer a difficult setback and recover. Individuals with self-esteem are positive people, not easily frustrated or upset. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 calls Christians to be joyful, and self-esteem helps us to embody this teaching.
The second factor revolves around having a good attitude toward authority. Leaders with a good relationship to authority are easier to manage and are more socially skilled.
The third factor is discipline. Leaders need to be able to control their appetites, stay focused on the job, and follow the proper procedures. Taking the time to understand who you are is important.
Knowing who you are will also help you manage your personal sense of self and presentation with the way your company or organization presents itself to the public. A lack of self-knowledge could lead to a misrepresentation of your employer to key interest groups and customers.
Learn to project yourself inside and outside of the office in a way that is consistent with the company’s structures and values. By doing so, you will be able to better achieve and represent your organization’s goals and identity.
Walk in the Light as He is in the Light (1 John 1:7)
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:21-24
There are certain character traits that increase the probability of a leader failing, for example, excessive self-confidence, a proclivity for risk-taking, being exploitive, needing a lot of affirmation, and odd or unusual behavior.
Behaviors such as these “move against people” and eventually lead to breakdowns. It’s important to be aware that too much boldness or confidence can result in failure.
A study done by organizational researchers Yi Zhang of Hong Kong and N. Anand Chandrasekar of Singapore discovered that leaders rated needed leadership strength higher on every single characteristic that was studied. Zhang and Chandrasekar conclude that less of a particular strength can make a leader more effective and that leaders who believe having more of every single skill will likely fail in the long term.
While certain personal tendencies can result in quick success, ultimately these darker traits are a weakness. For example, excessive self-confidence and overestimation of your abilities can give you a boost of confidence, courage, and charisma for a little bit.
But, eventually, becoming too high of self-esteem or self-confidence can create a sense of entitlement and an inability to own your mistakes. So as a developing leader, it is key to avoid the entrapments of pride. “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
Seek Out Your Strengths and/or Areas of Weakness
An easy first step is to draft a list of your weakness and strengths. Then, take this list around and share it with supervisors, peers, and customers and have them offer feedback. This approach is called 360 feedback because you hear from people all around you. It can be very helpful for eliminating blind spots and getting a realistic perspective on your performance.
When you’ve gotten your feedback, develop a plan to improve on areas of weakness on a daily basis, keeping track of your progress in a journal. As you enact your plan, check in with your 360 feedback group after three months to get an assessment of how you are growing as a leader.
To accomplish this, you will need to be vulnerable as a leader, but your team will feel safer and be able to trust you more as a human being. This will foster better relationships and a culture of forgiveness and empathy, which will help everyone grow.
One limitation of 360 feedback is negative “group think.” Sometimes an organizational culture can turn against someone for non-job related issues. If this is the case, then 360 feedback is very unhelpful because coworkers and bosses inappropriately address and condemn the person seeking feedback.
When this happens, accurate feedback is not gathered and is therefore unhelpful to the person trying to grow. It can also be demoralizing. To help offset this risk, the feedback should be confidential, not be used for performance reviews, solution focused, and gathered over time.
Adopt the Company Culture
While trying to fit into a new organization’s culture might feel robotic, don’t worry, you don’t have to give up who you are. A good way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to take a fearless moral inventory of how you behave at work around you coworkers without supervision from your boss.
Do your Christian values coincide with your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in the workplace? Does any of you or peer’s behavior not fit within larger corporate values? When you have made an honest inventory, talk about them with your peers so you can all work on improving your job performance.
Make sure people know your team’s shared values and publicize these values so others know. This might mean participating in more meetings with other groups or departments and being willing to hear criticism from superiors. Welcoming communication regarding your team’s performance is important, but you can also respectfully disagree if you think the specific battle is worth fighting for your team.
Reflect and Obtain Christian Coaching When Necessary
Unholy leadership characteristics stem from a desire to exploit others, gain power, obtain personal recognition, and get ahead at all costs. If you ever see this in yourself or others, you need to take a step back. Stop and reflect on what healthy forces should be motivating you to work effectively.
Consider what actions and feelings lead to this darker side of leadership. It’s often really hard for us to be objective when examining ourselves, so it’s best to find a trusted mentor or coach who can help guide you away from the darker side of leadership.
Take Charge of Stress
Fight against stress. Take a collaborative approach rather than competing with everyone else. One practical way to live this out is by increasing the scope of your job so you have to interact with other departments in your company. Learning how to handle stress and keeping the bigger purpose in mind is key to growing as a leader. Remember to celebrate others’ success.
Just because you didn’t come up with a certain idea, doesn’t mean you failed. Christian humility and gratefulness can help you deal with stress. If your stress feels overwhelming, you should seek ways to manage it well. You may want to consider Christian counseling to help your stress and understand what is going on in yourself and your work relationships.
Share Your Authority and Equip Your Team
Chappelow & Leslie, who are both organizational psychologists, suggest the following to help you share authority and equip your team. Make personal job responsibilities for your team revolving around your “to do” list. Be sure to rotate and spread out these jobs so everyone gets to learn and grow. Set your goals and keep track of them.
Try to foster a culture of coaching. You can do this by going to meetings with your boss or bosses in different departments to show your involvement in a coaching culture. Give praise and recognition and, if possible, tangible things like bonuses and raises for a job well done and personal growth.
Keeping these different practices and principles in mind, you can take practical steps toward your leadership development goals.
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