Leadership development is critical to the individual growth process. Even if you don’t have professional aspirations to be a manager, supervisor, CEO, president, etc. most of us at some point and time in our lives will find ourselves in some leadership position. The key is to recognize it when it happens. Life events like becoming a big brother or sister, a friend, first-time parent, community activist, or joining a church or service organization, getting a job or starting a career, are all events that require us to be a leader in some capacity.
The key is recognizing that all of the events mentioned above are leadership positions. So whether we like it or not we are all called upon to be a leader. The objective is to be effective in this new role as a leader. A leader can use his/her power for good or evil as witnessed by many past and present leaders. Anyone would be hard-pressed to deny that Adolph Hitler was not an effective leader. While he did not go down in history as a good leader, he was certainly one of the most effective leaders in history.
While, you will find many definitions of leadership. One definition that is fairly comprehensive is that leadership is the ability to influence a team of people towards accomplishing a common goal. While Hitler’s ideals may have been sadistic, to say the least, he was able to get millions of people to believe in him and follow his orders towards a common goal. Keep in mind, It is important to recognize your power, but just as important to use your power for good.
Sometimes because we don’t understand the power that we have, we become negligent in our responsibilities to be effective leaders. Recognizing that you are a leader in some capacity can be the first step in developing your skills as a leader. Becoming a great leader is not something that happens overnight. In fact, leadership is a process, not a position. As we go through the process we find different ways of developing ourselves into effective leaders. One such development skill is to learn through experience. The key is to make the most of those experiences and to learn how to learn from our experiences. Learning how to learn from experiences is what we want to share in this series of leadership development.
Leadership theory examines single loop and double loop learning. Without getting into too much detail single loop learning is when learners seek very little to no feedback that may confront their fundamental actions or ideals.
Double loop learners are learners who are willing to confront their own views and invite others to do so as well. Mainly, double loop learners understand that there are multiple perspectives and that they can learn from others. Mastering this double loop learning can be thought of as learning how to learn.
One way that leaders can enhance the value of their learning is by creating opportunities to get feedback.
If you have worked in corporate America in some capacity, I am sure you have heard your managers/leaders say “we have an open door policy”. I am pretty sure every job I’ve ever held I’ve heard that phrase. The question is how many of us take that statement seriously or have tried it only to be let down by office politics and bureaucracy? I can assure you in a room of 10 people eight will hold up their hand. It’s one thing to say you have an open door policy it’s an entirely different thing actually to practice this leadership style.
Even as parents we often tell our children that they can talk to us about anything, but what happens when they do come to share some of those thoughts and tough decisions, how do we react or better yet, do our children feel comfortable coming to us to open the subjects? You know, those uncomfortable subjects that we blush to talk about.
So, how do we make sure we have an open door policy in action, not just in word? How do we ensure that our children can talk to us about anything, not just the surface stuff? How do we ensure that our friends and family members can come to us when they need to? How can we learn to learn from our experiences?
The following are ways to create opportunities for feedback.
Assess your approachability not by your definition but by others
Often we see ourselves entirely different from the way others see us. The only way to get a correct understanding of how approachable we are is to ask others. A great tool to use is the 360-degree feedback tool. Using this tool you evaluate yourself and get feedback from your boss, peers, and direct reports. As a parent or friend, you should ask feedback from your children, spouses, partners, friends, church members, etc.
An excellent way to use this tool from a personal perspective is to simply, write down some questions to assess your approachability. Various assessments can be found on the internet for free, simply by using the search terms how approachable am I? To keep it simple here are a few questions you can write down.
- Do the negative feedback I give, outweigh my positive feedback?
- Do I step away from my desk and walk around to speak to my colleagues?
- Do I make time available to speak with team members?
- Do I keep my emotions in check when given bad news by my children?
- Do I make eye contact with others while speaking to them?
- Do I speak or listen to others with my arms folded?
The answers to the questions above can give you a very good idea if you are approachable. Again, you should first evaluate yourself and then ask for feedback from others in your circle.
Take psychological tests and assessments
Another great way to determine your approachability is to take psychological text and assessments. You should take more than one, and you should take them at different times. Consistent results can help you evaluate your approachability.
Anonymous surveys in the workplace
Giving anonymous surveys to your team members as well as your children can help to evaluate your approachability as well. It important that children understand that they can be completely honest, and there will be no repercussions for being honest. It’s important that coworkers and subordinates understand this as well. You have to give consent for others, to be honest with you.
The more these tools are used without fear of retaliation the more comfortable others will feel in approaching you as a leader. Now, I will be the first to tell you it is not easy hearing negative things about yourself, but the effective leader welcomes this constructive feedback because they understand how to learn from their experiences. This is a great opportunity to put into practice some of the constructive feedback that we hand out to others on a daily basis.
In time, we understand that creating opportunities to get feedback is one of the most effective tools in developing ourselves as leaders.
Wishing you much Success,
Tonya White Johnson, DBA
Founder of Exclusively You Coaching