By Even Fossen
When I was young I, by some peculiar reason I do not even remember today, had the ambition of becoming the CEO of a substantial company by the age of 30. I did not make it, but by the age of 33 I could check that off my list. However, looking back I must admit that even though my ambitions were solid and well articulated, I had absolutely no structured plan for how to grow as a leader. My only recipe for success back then was the same one as many other leaders we still meet today have: To work as hard and much as possible giving it my best shot! I looked around at my peers, and tried to adopt the positive traits and avoid the things I did not like. I was eager to learn, but I had no idea where to turn in order to learn leadership as a discipline except for going back to the university. Which I did not at all have time for.
Years passed by, and my leadership evolved by trial and error. Now and then I read leadership literature, and I used my team as a live research lab. Looking back I must admit that there were things happening that I am quite proud of, alongside with things I almost blush by just thinking of today. As time passed by, I formed my leadership style and in the latter years I led a solid team of people, who also were confident in giving me feedback and corrections underway.
Today we meet many leaders who are facing the same challenges, but we also meet a new breed of leaders. These are young and confident people, often with only a few years' experience as a leader, but still with a crystal clear point of view of what "good" leadership is. Their definition is built upon the last year's trends and research within leadership, and is often in line with how we look upon leadership after all these years. It is always great to meet leaders like this, and the only hope we have for them, is that they keep on being adaptive and are able to change their own leadership style as time passes by. Being adaptable to change is actually equally important to spending decades growing into an experienced leader.
What we see is, that in order to be a good leader, it is not the years as a leader that count the most, nor the personality of this person. It is the ability to look upon leadership as a discipline, with a set of methods and tools that are adaptive and the best possible fit for achieving the results you are trying to reach, given the premises of your team and surroundings.
The good thing with this is the possibility to short-cut the learning curve for how to become a brilliant leader! Methods, processes, and tools can be learned by anyone, and by mixing these skills with the ambitions, interest, and enthusiasm needed to be a good leader - you are heading in the right direction.
So given that "doing it the hard way" by spending years to evolve as a good leader is not the only way to go, what is the optimum way of learning applied leadership? Is it to get a solid master degree in leadership? Is it to have a great mentor? To read all the new leadership books and attend numerous leadership courses?
Well - to quote Winnie the Pooh. "Yes, thank you!" All would be great. However, given the challenge with time, it is important to find a way that is structured and effective, and that let you start applying the new knowledge AS YOU GO ALONG.
With today's technology, it is possible to become a better leader just by sitting in front of your computer. You can upgrade your leadership skill and tap into the collective competence and best practice in a digital format suited for your hectic work schedule. Universities known for their excellent executive programs are releasing their curriculum online as we speak, it is possible to tap into both acquired knowledge and experience through online formats like Ted.com and numerous blogs that focuses in particular on leadership. There are online programs tailored especially for leaders in all kinds of situations, focusing on teaching them particular skills needed for effective leadership.
- Accept that when the corporate world is changing, leadership needs to change accordingly. In the accelerating changing world we live in, also leadership is a changing discipline that needs to adapt to changes in the society in general and corporate world in particular.
- Decide that you want to join the ride, be curious and dig into this wealth of knowledge. No one hold the key to your own success as you do. But you need to do the work. It does not matter if you are young and ambitious or an experienced leader. You all need to grow and change. And remember what we pointed out in the previous blog (link + name), research shows we stagnate at the age of forty when it comes to willingness to adapt new knowledge. Make sure you force yourself beyond this threshold.
- Practice what you learn! Remember - what you learn will never be unlearned. But you can forget it if you do not use what you learn. The good thing is that it only takes a few times of doing something, until our brain starts forming new patterns making it quite easy to incorporate new skills into your leadership efforts.