I put aside some time to reflect on everything I’ve heard from leaders all over the world over the past year. My goal was to highlight the leadership issues I heard most often and to share some possible solutions. The greatest problems in leadership today may surprise you. #1 Taking time for personal reflection #2 Commitment to personal and professional development That’s right! You might have thought that the issues leaders talked about most often were challenges in developing new leaders, the need to improve communication or developing an ability to work with diverse cultures. Those are all still great challenges, but if you’re going to solve any of those problems, you’ve got to commit to understanding and continually improving your “self.” The problem becomes more acute in direct proportion to one’s responsibilities. That is, the higher you go in leadership, the more difficult it is to commit time and resources to self-reflection and self-improvement. I work with some remarkable and dedicated leaders. The problem is not that they think they’re above self-improvement. In fact, most would welcome the opportunity. The major problem cited is time. You’re just too damn busy. The first part of the solution is what may be, for some, a radical mindset shift. It’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of priority.
Of course, you can argue that your first priority is serving others. I have an answer for that in the form of a question––or rather a couple of questions: How can you be the best that you can be for others if you’re not continually committed to improving your self?
How can you ask or expect others to commit to continual improvement if you’re not leading by example? The process of self-improvement is ridiculously simple––not easy––and this is the perfect time of the year to commit to this process. Traditionally, the year-end is a time for reflection, and the New Year is a time for renewal and recommitment. Aren’t you likely reviewing year-end reports and analyzing performance right now? Aren’t you already formulating goals for the coming year for your organization? Great! Just transfer a little of that energy inward. Two steps: #1 Schedule a day of reflection. Prioritize this in your calendar––let NOTHING interfere. This can take any number of forms from a long, quiet walk to a formal retreat. The important thing is to remove yourself from any distractions, turn off all the noise and allow yourself some time to simply think about the past year and about who you are as a person, and a leader right now. #2 Identify one or two goals for personal and professional development. You don’t need a long list. Focusing on one or two goals in each area will increase the odds that you will commit the time and resources you need to succeed and to enjoy the experience. For years I taught my martial arts students that the least selfish thing you can do for others is to improve your “self.” That’s a large part of the purpose behind the rather self-indulgent process of becoming a Black Belt. The journey to Black Belt is sometimes selfish. It requires a tremendous commitment in time. It requires, at times the sacrifice––or I’d prefer to say the contributions of people close to you. It is a radically self-centered process demanding intense introspection and focus on one’s self. But what is the ultimate goal?
It is to become a better, more powerful, more effective person. In improving your self, you become a much more valuable resource to the people around you. As a leader, you become a greater resource to the people you serve. And you provide a powerful and inspiring example to the people who follow you willingly. This task is not optional. Do it and you’ll confirm that this is one of the most essential and powerful commitments you can make to become a better leader––and a better person in the New Year. Open your planner and schedule your day of reflection––now.
Note: We're about to launch a very special opportunity to join our SENSEI LEADER Online Mastermind Intensives. One of our upcoming Intensives will focus on "Commit to Personal & Professional Development." Subscribe here for updates! Seating will be extremely limited!