Hello everyone. I’m Steve Nathenson, CEO and founder of Strive For More. And today I want to talk about the question of, what should leadership development look like? It’s a great question to ask.
Throughout all of my experience as a leadership development coach and my career as an engineer, as an FBI special agent, and all the schooling and education that I’ve had as well, I think leadership development really comes down to six key critical areas. The first of which is leadership. Second is communication. The third is personal growth. The fourth is engaging, inspiring, motivating, and uniting others. The fifth is thinking and acting strategically. And the sixth is coaching and developing others. Those six key crucial areas create a comprehensive curriculum, if you will, to develop leaders holistically.
One of the big things that we do talk about today that is usually important, it is emotional intelligence. How do we create more emotionally intelligent leaders? Now we’re actually going to talk about that in a later episode, but it’s worth noting that when we talk about personal growth and development, that’s where this falls. But personal growth and development goes much further beyond just emotional intelligence. It really dives into true self mastery. And it is one of the biggest areas that I find leadership development always focuses on. That’s why here at Strive For More, we’ve created GRIT: give, recognize, implement, time. It is our trademark signature cognitive behavioral coaching approach that really helps people master their mindset to increase their focus, confidence, performance, or motivating others to do the same. And it is the quintessential thing that helps people develop mentally, up here, first. Master that mindset. That allows them then to become more emotional intelligent.
For an example, when we set our sights on emotional intelligence in the four domains, the first is self-awareness. In GRIT, the first part of giving ourselves permission to be human is really all about embracing all of us, accepting all parts of that, the good, the bad. They’re both there. It creates that self-awareness around who we are. And when we recognize that and we recognize our tendencies, especially when it comes to, say, emotions and flaring up. It’s easier, then, to overcome them and embrace that, to recognize. We always have that choice of how we are going to proceed and act. It’s always there for us to make.
So just a simple illustration. When we talk about leadership development, the biggest area that I find coaching always gets into is the personal growth section. That includes emotional intelligence and leadership development. The number two area is communication. How do we communicate effectively? How do we have collaborative, engaging conversations with each other? How do we prevent things from breaking apart, getting aggressive, especially during performance review conversations? They’re not necessarily comfortable for anyone, and that’s okay. But there are ways to have them that can bridge that gap, especially if they’re adversarial and someone’s not performing, to be able to set us on that path forward to reconnecting and getting to where we need to go.
So out of these six key areas, I find the biggest and strongest focus is on the personal growth of development of our leaders to really be able to master themselves mentally, and then their skillsets. And then that second area is communication. Words have tremendous power and meaning. And by saying the wrong thing, we can set something off that we didn’t intend. So beyond the personal growth development, I find the second biggest area is communication.
One of the other things that’s important in leadership development is to have a blended approach of education and coaching. And that depends on the level of leader we’re working with, their experiences and who they are as an individual. So what do I mean by that? When we look at, say, training courses, we look at seminars, there’s really only so much that we can walk away with if it’s a, say, four hour workshop, if it’s a one hour webinar seminar. Our brain can only really retain a couple key points from it. And while we may walk away with those points and start trying to put them into practice, we have to practice. We have to apply it. And that’s the crux of it, is those are patchwork solutions, if you will. They help us maybe in the short term, but not in the long term.
So when we talk about true long lasting, sustainable leadership development, it is a true process of education and coaching together to help people understand, let’s say, how to think and act strategically and shift away from the day to day and getting caught in the leads and what it means to lead and people. Let go of some of that work, how to delegate, how to prioritize, how to make asks of people and appropriately put together time estimates for people power, right? How many people power is this hours is this project going to take?
There’s some educational components that go into that, especially if your leaders are in their earlier stages of their career, right? If they’re high potential employees looking to get into management, if they’re first time managers or frontline managers, even up to senior managers, there’s still that education, that blend, especially as we progress our careers upwards. We become more and more strategic versus tactical, and there is an art to letting go. And answering this question… And I’m giggling, because I’m working with a client right now that we’ve had conversations around, what am I going to do at this new level?
There are questions that require some education and some understanding. And then the coaching element creates the long lasting, sustainable habit changes that are necessary to shift out of that day to day, become more strategic, to think differently, to communicate more effectively, to get over the roadblocks and hurdles that we have mentally. Imposter syndrome is a very real thing that a lot of people, you’d probably be surprised, have that you didn’t think had. So it’s that right, appropriate blend of education tailored to the specific level of leaders we’re working with, and then the coaching that helps truly develop that skillset and ingrain it as new habits and behavior over time that simple trainings and seminars cannot do.
Real short reason behind that. Again, if we get back to GRIT: give, recognize, implement, time, just for a moment, is it takes time. We don’t change instantaneously as human beings. So when we’re talking about successfully rolling out leadership development and growth and training, it’s got to be that blended approach. And it’s got to be a distinct period of time that allows for this. Within our brains, we have neurons. And as we decide, say, to drive and step into our car, put our foot on the brake, turn the car on, go through the entirety of starting the car, and then driving. We’re lighting up the connection of neurons that dictate, Hey, we’re going to put our arms on the wheel. We’re going to put our foot on the brake. We’re going to press the button to turn on the car, turn on a key to do it. Little neural pathway lights up like a lightning rod in our brain. So let’s say we’ve been doing that for 30 years. That’s now firmly implanted, very high.
So for those of you not watching the video and just listening to this, picture a hand at the top of your head. Now let’s say we have to relearn how to drive, or maybe we’ve never driven before. We’ve got to create this new neural path. So picture hand, say, at your chin. Let’s just stick with the 30 year example. The hand at the top of our head, that is our firmly implanted neural pathway that has been solidified through experiences and become very, very strong. Now, if I have to learn how to drive a new way, my hand at my chin is weak. It’s not necessarily known. So we have to spend time figuring out, well, what does this actually look like? And then once we understand what it looks like, then we have to figure out, well, what’s one small step that we can do to start building this as a new habit?
That’s the implement of GRIT. One small, manageable step at a time that builds confidence, builds this neural pathway, engages in it more and then lessens the old one until they eventually flip flop. So my hand that was at my chin is now at the top of my head. And the hand that was at the top of my head is now at my chin. So we’ve literally rewired our brains over a period of time. That creates that new change of behavior within us. It’s the same thing, whether we’re learning how to be leaders or driving. That is required. We have to literally teach and rewire our brains to ingrain new habits and understanding to shift the way that we are to become the kind of leaders that we want to be.
It’s easier, let’s say, for a new leader and we haven’t had any bad habits that we have to break. We’re not necessarily fighting [inaudible 00:10:18], say, strongly, firmly implanted neural pathways. But that’s not necessarily always the case, because we come in with preconceived notions. We think about leadership in a certain way. We have experiences that dictate what we think it should be. Some things may be favorable, some may not be. So there’s always this element that we have to work against. It depends on how strongly implanted that neural pathway is. That will dictate how long does it take to truly create the new one and overcome it.
So getting back to our entirety of the question today, what should leadership development look like? It should look like a program that is an extended period of time that allows for true growth and understanding as an individual and actually ingrain true practices and principles of leadership by building those strong neural pathways and habits over time.
And it should also address are six key areas of leadership development that are critical. Leadership, communication, personal growth, thinking and acting strategically, engaging, motivating, inspiring, and uniting others, and coaching and developing others. These six key areas will help somebody master the kind of leader that they want to be. And it inherently already involves quintessential things like emotional intelligence that we talked about earlier. But it also gets to the heart of building trust with others, having strong relationships with them, being able to actually truly unite and bring together high performing teams that we’re looking for. Be very socially intelligent, as well. All of these things can help us truly master who we are as a leader in our quintessential parts of leadership development.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and your comments. I’ve spoken to a lot of folks in this arena as well that bring out these key areas, but I’m always interested to learn. What resonates with you? What are you looking for the most? And if it helps, you can visit www.striveformore.com, and under the resources heading, we have a leadership needs development assessment that can help explore these six key areas for you to pinpoint, what are some things that we, as an organization, can focus on? So until the next time, be the movement in your life.
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