Note: none of the links in this post are affliate links, I’ve personally found value in them
This week I’m traveling to Chicago to participate in a Leadership course – specifically a “Women in Emerging Leadership” course. (That’s the early morning Toronto skyline from the airport.)
Leadership courses are my favourite type of training because of the opportunity for personal growth. The good leadership courses make us take a hard look in the mirror at what we do well and could craft into a strength, and where we have blinds spots and are tripping ourselves up. And there is always something I could do better.
Quality leadership training involves a great deal of introspection. Here are the elements of leadership courses that I’ve gotten the most benefit from:
Generate data: There are two ways to generate data to drive introspection: inventories and external feedback. Inventories involve filling out questionnaires, and using the answers to look for trends or preferences and grouping you into categories with like-minded individuals. This attempts to give you insight into how you operate, see yourself, and how you interact with others. Then you can consider if this information gives you anything you want to work on or develop.
Exernal feedback is another data source (the best being 360 degree where you gather data from direct reports, co-workers, and senior leaders). This could be an anonymous questionnaire. The benefits are anonymity and a report may be generated to show trends (and you know I love data). Drawbacks: you rely on the written word. Face-to-face feedback gives you more body language; you can prompt with additional questions and explore themes, but it’s more direct and negative feedback may not be shared.
Analyze the data using context, and frameworks: Once you have all this data, you need to figure out what it means. Leadership training will give you context. There are two general ways I’ve experienced: a comparison of your performance to leadership traits, or how you fit into a framework. Again, either can be useful, because it’s the insight you gain that is valuable, not subscribing to any one school of thought. A good list of leadership traits are actually behaviours, because leaderhip is not about any one personailty type – all can be effective if used with skill. Behaviours will describe how well you communicate or resolve conflct, for example. A framework is more about categorization, and how people like you, in general, can be effective. This can be as simple as introverts using the written word to communicate, as they do it better that way.
Determine actions: How do you put all this into action? Often there are specific scenarios that you can name that you want to approach differently or more confidently. A detailed action plan, or strategy for dealing with upcoming or difficult situations will help you through them. Then you either adjust based on what happens or you become more confident and repeat the same things next time.
Becoming a better leader never finishes. You get feedback and decide to develop your skills – this takes time. You have to practice. Sometimes you won’t get the opportunity to try out a skill very often and only being put in a pressure situation will you know how you will react. You can always learn something new – you may be interacting with new people who respond differently to your style. Work or life challenges may be different and that causes you to react differently (though better to not react at all but to choose your response with care and thought).
I have never been in a woman-specific leadership course before. I understand the value of targeted learning so I hope I learn some specific ways I can be a better leader. I’ll report back next week.
Have you ever taken leadership training? What were the most useful insights you received?