Leadership is a multifaceted responsibility. As a leader, you must manage your team's day-to-day operations while planning and leading your organization toward a positive future. You must ensure every team member is happy, engaged and working toward a goal that will benefit the entire company. And, you must do this while juggling all the other responsibilities in your life: family, friends, other organizations you are involved with—the list goes on.
No matter where you are in life, it is essential to keep developing your knowledge. The best leaders are constantly learning and growing, whether in their first or 20th year on the job. This means that there is no such thing as "enough" when learning how to be a good leader. At the executive level, it becomes more critical to continue learning because your decisions affect many others. If you do not keep learning new things about leadership, industry trends, and best practices in different situations and environments, your leadership ability will plateau quickly.
As such, a company must invest in its leadership team for the organization to be successful.
Professional development does not end at the VP Level. Yes, by this point, you are considered an expert in your field. But ongoing professional development for leaders is essential for the organization's greater good.
You may think this isn't your job—you are supposed to lead, not learn, right? The truth is that even great leaders need continuous professional development to do their jobs well. The difference between average and great leaders is the willingness to learn new skills.
One of the smartest things a company can do is invest in its leaders because these are the people who have the most significant impact on the rest of the organization. Suppose you want to be a leader who can adapt quickly and effectively to any situation. In that case, you must keep bettering yourself and learning more about your industry and overall leadership strategies to stay ahead of current and changing trends.
It's easy for leaders to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of running an organization and dealing with all the other responsibilities that come with managing people. But leaders need to continue learning to stay fresh, relevant, and innovative within their organizations, or they will become less effective at leading others through change and challenging situations.
Make leadership development a priority at your organization.
Finding time and resources to participate in executive education programs can be difficult, especially for a startup where people are being pulled in many different directions in a fast-paced environment.
The good news is that executive development does not have to be expensive or time-consuming.
Taking an introspective look at where you have gaps in knowledge and confidence is an excellent place to start. What are your strengths and areas of improvement? Can you enhance your time or people management skills? Do you need help with communication? Do you have difficulty giving feedback?
By taking an honest look at yourself, it is easier to determine what type of executive education program would be most beneficial for you. Once you identify the areas that you would like to improve, make them specific, measurable, and attainable to track your progress. Invest in yourself as you do your team members. You are important.
Here are a few ideas for maximizing your professional development:
Read books. Reading may sound obvious, but there is a reason so many successful people are voracious readers. Reading helps you add new ideas to your tool kit and provides inspiration on how you can apply those ideas in your job.
Attend seminars and conferences. There is no better way to build relationships with colleagues than by meeting up in person (or virtually) at industry events where you can share ideas and learn from each other's experiences.
Find an executive coach to help you in areas to get a different perspective.
And most importantly, celebrate yourself when your new goals are achieved.
About Ann Walsh
Ann P. Walsh, SPHR, is a start-up Human Resource Executive with over 25 years of expertise in architecting and implementing global human capital strategies in high-growth, employee-first organizations. Ann has received certificates in leadership, management, conflict resolution, and negotiation from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School; design thinking from Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and diversity and inclusion at Cornell University's ILR School. She is a certified Senior Human Resources Professional (SPHR) and has a B.S. in finance from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.