When you’re running a company there are plenty of things to focus on. Sales of your products, marketing strategies, long-term goals just to name a few. You may spend a lot of time and money on training your sales staff. But do you ever take time out to consider your own development?
Some CEOs or business owners get around to themselves last when it comes to improving skills, either due to lack of time or considering it a low priority. But what could be more important? If you’re the head of the show, shouldn’t you keep your own skills sharp?
I recently read an article in INC, “7 Reasons You Can’t Learn Leadership on Your Own,” and two of the reasons in particular struck me.
The first is that observing leadership is not the same as developing leadership. I have found that to be true. There seems to be a prevailing belief that people will just “grow into” being leaders.
The article also pointed out that many board members and investors are not good leaders, although they think they may be.
They also operate with an agenda, which may not include developing your skills as a leader. That would not necessarily work to their benefit as it may interfere with them pushing through those agendas. So you can’t expect your board or your investors to encourage you to develop leadership skills. You’re on your own there.
So how do you do it?
There are courses you can take and plenty of articles available on the Internet. There is no shortage of books on the topic. Here is a list from Forbes.com of leadership books it recommended from 2013. In addition to some new titles, it includes some classics like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change,” by Stephen R. Covey and even an 80-year-old classic from Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
One of the most effective ways I’ve found to improve my business skills is by sharing ideas, problems and concerns with other CEOs and business leaders. If you can find such a group of leaders, you can learn a lot from each other as a lot of the issues you deal with are similar.
For example, the Vistage Chief Executive Program brings in 16 peers from noncompetitive businesses that serve each other in an advisory capacity. They have monthly problem-solving meetings and personal coaching sessions. They can also attend up to eight workshops a year led by a Vistage expert speaker.
If you don’t want to attend a formal group, form your own informal one from your acquaintances, again in noncompetitive businesses. Arrange to meet weekly for coffee and discuss your leadership challenges.
Just like you don’t neglect developing your muscles at the gym for your health, continue to develop your leadership skills as well by whatever method works for you.