As we move into September, what have you done to develop yourself as a leader over the last eight months? Did you start the year with good intentions to grow? Did you commit to reading more on leadership? Did you register for any leadership seminars? Intentions are great, but unless they translate into actions, intentions are nothing more than empty promises we make to ourselves and brag about to others.
If you have worked on your development, that’s great and I encourage you to not slack off. If you have not done anything to grow your leadership skills and abilities, please don’t wait until January 1 of next year to start. There are still four months remaining in 2021 to plan, engage, act, and work on the art of leadership. In my book The Furnace of Leadership Development, I wrote, “In order to develop as leaders, we must map the route and not rely on someone else to drive us to the destination. You must put forth the time and effort to design a realistic plan.” That is right: you must do it yourself. Moving beyond intention means having a bias for action and taking the initiative on your own without having someone else telling you to get your rear in gear.
The photo illustrates several essential tools firefighters use for planning and decision making on wildland fires. There is a map, an incident action plan, an incident organizer, and the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG). As an incident commander during the initial attack phase, I not only used the IRPG, but I also worked on completing the incident organizer. Why? Because both helped in developing the incident organization and building the incident action plan. As an incident commander, if I neglected to use either tool, I risked staring aimlessly into space, shooting spitballs, and hoping that all would go well. Hope is a good quality, but it is not a strategy or a viable course of action.
Likewise, as leaders if we do not have a plan to develop ourselves, then we resemble the steel ball inside a pinball machine. Bouncing off the bumpers and making a lot of noise, but showing little progress for the effort. How do you create a leadership development plan? When I formulated an incident action plan at the scene of an emergency, I needed to know the situation facing me. The same principle is applied to developing your leadership plan: what is the situation before you? Invest the time to conduct an honest assessment of your leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities by asking:
- What are your core values?
- What characteristics and qualities do good leaders possess?
- Which of these do you have, and do they align with your core values?
- What leadership training have you had in the past year? Past five years?
- Please note that using Covid-19 is an excuse for not developing yourself
- What books, journals, and articles are you reading?
- Identify existing gaps in your leadership training.
This is not an end-all list, and you may think of other questions to ask yourself. The important point to remember is to be honest and don’t candy-coat the exercise. Review your answers and distill those into four areas: what is your current situation (including leadership gaps), what are you doing, what do you need to do, and what will you do? Remember, there is a difference between intention and deliberate action.
The last question in the paragraph above, what will you do, is directly tied to what you need to do. At this point, establish SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) and commit to becoming a better leader. Why should you do this?
- Because America and the world lack character-based leaders who adhere to strong core values.
- You will better serve those around you including your family.
- You will become a better employee and citizen.
- You will positively impact others.
You may wonder what drives my motivation and desire to become a better leader? Because I firmly believe what God says in Luke 12:48, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” These are my marching orders and part of my essential leadership development plan. Will you translate your intentions into an essential leadership development plan? Please reach out to me and I’ll gladly discuss this in more detail.