How Leaders Can Make Sense of Mixed Messages

  • 3 Min Read

Leaders need to focus on their own development just as much as the development and growth of other employees.

Ever notice the conflicting messaging that we provide formal leaders?

“The Function of a Leader is to create more leaders, not more followers.” –  Ralph Nader, American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney,

You know…you’re well equipped to be a successful formal leader if you focus primarily on the development and growth of others.

Right. Ok. Focus on the development and growth and successes of others. Got it!

But then…

“Your career is your business. It’s time for you to manage it as a CEO.” – Dorit Sher, management and organizational coach, CEO & Founder of Experity  

Oh. Ok. Career and professional development is MINE to own. I steer the ship. I must play an integral role in my own career planning. It’s ok to distinguish my own needs and goals from the business objectives of the company.

Alright. Sounds good. Makes sense. But wait a minute! I’m so confused!

Sound familiar?

While it’s confusing to offer up what can feel like conflicting areas of focus and “proof” of what makes someone a good leader, we don’t give these messages equal weight and I think that’s quite concerning.

I’m going to go against the grain here, but I think it’s JUST as important (and here’s the against the grain part—potentially even MORE important) to focus on your own growth and development as it is to focus on those of your direct reports.

Yep. It sounds a bit selfish, but it’s not entirely because it doesn’t do your direct reports any good to be focused solely on their development, influence and growth.

So, here are three tips you can use to ensure that you’re balancing these “mixed messages” and not unduly “taking on” the messages that might make you feel like your development and growth needs to be put on the backburner to “prove” your worth as a formal leader.

Give Yourself Permission

Repeat after me. My own growth and development matters. My own growth and development matters. Seriously though, first thing’s first. Give yourself permission to carve out dedicated time for your own growth and development.

Take accountability

Focusing on what you need to do to grow and develop and advance (whatever that means to you), is not only good for you and good for the business, but when done well, it’s good for your direct reports. Consider your professional desires and needs and OWN IT. Take the first step.

Work “out loud”

Are you familiar with the “work out loud” concept? Click on the link for more information, but in a nutshell, it’s a concept that describes new ways that people are bringing social collaboration and narration into the workplace. “Work out loud” involved investing in deepening relationships in order to better develop your skills. You do this by making your work visible and offering it up as a ‘contribution’ rather than networking or sharing knowledge with the sole purpose of ‘getting’ something in return.

This intentional difference is an excellent way to develop yourself, learn, and grow, all while contributing to a learning environment and system where others get to learn from our transparency.

Here are two simple examples to get you started:

  • Start blogging! Post your work, your thoughts, your learnings and your challenges. Make it visible and welcome comments and dialogue.
  • Provide comments and feedback to others’ posts or status updates. Frame your thoughts as contributions obtained via your own learning and growth. And as always, welcome feedback in return.

Alright folks. Time to get to work! What’s your next step going to be?


This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse

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