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Steps to Personal Development and Growth for Leaders

Bumpy ball development journey

Babies develop rapidly, just ask parents and grandparents aware of the milestones of development. We learn from pediatricians, bloggers, videos, books and articles telling parents how to stimulate their child’s brain. It can be overwhelming and contradictory information, but the bottom line is to give them the environment they need in order to grow.

You may have seen this ball, pictured above, with its varying textures, colors, sounds and patterns. Babies love playing with it and exploring the various irregularities. It is not a smooth ball, all sides are not even. It is lumpy. Lumpy development is expected in humans, for that is how one grows, in spurts. Some walk early, some talk early, personalities vary. Their learning may be uneven and explosive as they learn to crawl, talk, and walk.

Babies, kids, teens and adults are constantly developing emotionally, cognitively, physically and socially. That development may be uneven, for example, and for a few months they may advance emotionally and less physically. They may speak 2 words today, then suddenly they can speak many more words.

Leaders aren’t any different

We are uneven in our growth also. We are never completely finished learning. Take a new leader, for example. The steep learning curve a leader goes through on the job is demanding and challenging. They may have interpersonal challenges with coworkers, they may not be able to get things done in their organization due to low EQ (Emotional Intelligence) or low social skills. Mental challenges may include needing to learning their industry, their organizational culture, their competitive landscape, political savvy and influence. We all know the extremely high IQ manager in their organization who has undeveloped social skills and does not notice social cues, right? This person could benefit from development. They may have negative attitudes or limiting beliefs about learning. Our first step on the journey is deciding to invest in yourself. 

How do we become well rounded?

First we must work on self- awareness to get a picture of ourselves holistically. That awareness comes from many sources such as personality assessments, feedback from coworkers, bosses, 360- degree instruments and self- reflection. We can ask others and seek feedback. There are endless insights to learn about oneself: risk tolerance, conflict management strategies, optimizing their introversion or extroversion style to their team. Some learn by getting certified in key areas of their work, or getting advanced degrees.

Next we can set goals around new growth areas, build a support and accountability structure which builds momentum for continued growth and expansion. The leader then gains confidence to work on fresh areas, which can stimulate interest in new areas for development. Your organization may have the philosophy that employees must develop themselves. Organizations today are focusing on improving systemic issues, such as culture, performance and employee engagement. Some have leadership development programs for mid to senior managers. If you are in such a program, take advantage of it, go all- in to learn more about yourself. If you are not in a program, seek help from a certified leadership coach, or start reading and learning on your own. Create a group of like-minded people who are also interested in personal development and growth as leaders. We can learn so much from our peers. What’s the alternative for leaders who stay lumpy? They will not advance. Their career acceleration will slow and they will wonder why opportunities pass them by.


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