Our Future is Bright with These Leaders

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

I am incredibly confident in our future after working with a cohort of 16 amazing emerging leaders since February of this year. We just finished piloting a 9-month leadership development program at the U.S. Army TACOM Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems. This program was a combination of classroom training, group coaching, and individual coaching. I am so impressed with this group’s self-awareness, emotional courage, application of training concepts (both at work and in their personal lives), and transformation in how they interact and communicate with others. We completed our final session last week where each group of four participants presented a final project of what they learned from the program. Below are some of their take-aways.

10 Leadership Key Take-aways:

  1. Self-awareness is critical to great leadership. Leaders must understand their own preferences, strengths and blind spots in order to manage themselves and their interactions with others.
  2. Teaming is a must. Leaders must get work done through others. It’s important to understand team members’ preferences, communication styles and drivers in order to develop a high-performing team.
  3. Listen to understand. Listening is a fundamental leadership skill. Active listening is the pathway to understanding and empathy. Team members do more and give more of themselves when they feel heard, understood and cared about. What people want more than anything is to be treated with respect.
  4. Follow the Platinum Rule. Spend time with team members to learn about their preferences and what’s important to them. Use this information to treat them the way they want to be treated instead of how you want to be treated.
  5. Check your assumptions. Everyone makes quick judgments with limited information in this faced-paced day and age. It’s necessary, and it’s dangerous. Sometimes judgments are wrong. It’s always better to ask than to assume, especially when a relationship is at stake.
  6. Clear communication is critical. Set clear expectations upfront and gain agreement from team members. Agreement provides the pathway to personally accountability. It also makes giving feedback much easier later on.
  7. Feedback is difficult and necessary. It takes emotional courage to be direct, set boundaries, and give tough feedback. It’s better to bite the bullet and have these conversations early on to address issues while they are still small. The longer you wait, the bigger they become, resulting in more difficult and uncomfortable conversations down the road. You also risk losing credibility if you wait too long to address issues.
  8. Leaders must relinquish control. The job of a leader is not to do all of the work themselves. They must delegate and set clear expectations that allow team members to achieve results in their own way. There are many right ways to accomplish tasks and goals.
  9. You can’t control your environment, but you can control your response. You may have challenging people on your team or an unsupportive boss, but it does not prevent you from managing yourself and choosing your response. When you know better, you have a responsibility to do better, regardless of what’s going on around you.
  10. Leadership is a life-long journey. Leadership can continually be improved upon. There is never a point where a leader or a human being can say, “I’ve made it! Now I’m done learning and improving.” It’s been said before that if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.

It has been an honor and my greatest professional joy to work with all of these incredible leaders over the past several months. I wish them every success and happiness. I know that we are in good hands with their leadership. I am thrilled that they will be developing and setting the example for the next generation of leaders. “The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades.”

“A leader is a person you will follow to a place you would not go by yourself.” – Joel Barker

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.” – Brian Tracy

 

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