The Discipline of Continuous Improvement And Growth
"You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over." Richard Branson
"Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance." Proverbs 1:5
There is a need for leaders in our fast-paced world.
Leaders must have a disposition for disciplined growth in today's business world or suffer the fate of professional suicide. Many jobs and job levels that we once considered to be permanent occupations in the business world are now changing faster due to technological innovation and globalization and driving organizations toward flatter and leaner models. Soft skills in the areas of cultural intelligence and emotional intelligence, unheard of not too long ago, are now considered critical leadership skills. The pace of networking and marketing in a web-driven social media environment are driving the speed up and offering connections to people worldwide. And with this challenge comes change to how leadership is being accomplished - at lightning speed nonetheless. As John Kotter has said, "As the pace of change accelerates, there is naturally a greater need for effective leadership.” And the way we address it is through our improvement and growth.
Three principles of continuous improvement for the leader.
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Principle One | Aim for there.
Think about this: What got you to here, only got you to here - it won't get you there. Every new level of leadership has its own set of challenges that require a new mindset and thus a new set of skills. As we face these challenges, we should welcome the opportunity to develop new paradigms that will accelerate our leadership. It used to be that a leader would gain certification in a single field, and leverage that degree or certification for a lifetime. But in today's world, a person with a broad set of work experiences, many certifications, and numerous cultural experiences has the upper hand. It's a queue for developing organizations that you have a drive for continuous learning and advancement. Companies and their leaders today know that the way business is being done is changing and with this comes needed knowledge in new areas, some roles might have unique and new titles. Being committed to continuous learning has the power to take you there - that new place others are looking to go.
Principle Two | Find mentors.
Mentors, not a single mentor, is another way to drive for continuous improvement. No one person can mentor us in all areas. I have mentors I lean on for financial advice, spiritual advice, fitness advice, sales advice, personal advice, family advice, strategic advice, and kid advice. You name it, and you can find a mentor. But you may have to draw it out of them; they will not think of themselves as a mentor. They will be people who do things you want to do when you don't know how and may accomplish great feats effortlessly. Multiple mentor relationships with people who are a step or two ahead of you can help you learn things that you want and need to learn faster than any book you will ever read. They can also help us understand how one's work values need to change when one goes from one level of responsibility to another. These are things we would not naturally know as we had not been there before. So when initiating a relationship with a mentor be very specific as to what you desire to gain from the time together and be willing to read or participate in learning experiences that they recommend.
Principle Three | Read and ask questions.
Ask your mentors or those you respect what books, articles or journals they would recommend to you. Well-chosen books are far more critical than the number of books you read, although attempting to read at least one book per month is a good one. It is said that Bill Gates reads about 50 books each year, and many great leaders have followed his lead on this. Also, strike up conversations with as many people as you can. And not just senior level leaders or those you want to mentor you, but those who have hands-on and meaningful work in specific areas. Peter Drucker would spend up to an hour every morning talking to line managers in various industries to find out what was happening. He had a range of knowledge that was phenomenal from a conversation he had with people "down the line."
The bottom line is that leaders are learners - continuously and aggressively. The best leaders focus on growing holistically including in their spiritual, emotional, relational, cultural and work-related skills. The more we develop, the more we have to offer and the more valuable we are to the organizations we serve.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 16 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.