Define Leadership and Managing Well for Professional Development Success

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By Robert P. Hewes, PhD
October 08, 2020
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Starting well, having a good frame or scope, having a good problem statement. We all know these are important to tackling any problem. However, many of us – me included! – sometimes rush past this step. We just dive in.

Turns out the same thing happens in the development world. We know that we should have good professional development goals, we should write them down, and we should practice, practice, and practice them some more. At least, we should all know these steps – right?!

However, what we see happen over and over on executive coaching engagements is that a good definition of leadership and management is missing or poorly defined for that particular organization. It often comes out in little snippets and after something unexpected or contrary happens. In essence, we need to go back to the beginning and develop a good problem statement. In this case, it’s establish a good definition of leadership and management. Our professional goals are always within the context of our organization. The goals are not in a vacuum. We must have a good definition of leadership.

Ask what does capability X look like here? For example, what does good decision making look like? One organization may describe it as “we are data driven and look at alternatives.” Another, might describe it around speed – “we have a bias for action.” One client had, as part of the definition of communication effectiveness, that one is good “up, down and across” with communication. This phrase clearly shows an emphasis at being good at communication in all directions. Different organizations will define their leadership and management styles and approaches differently. That is what we need to clarify – for each organization.

Five Activities to Define Leading and Managing Well

So, how do we tackle this? Here are five activities that will help you define leading and managing well in your organization.

  1. Define it – For any particular capability or competency, describe it well. Answer, what does it look like? What are the key words that describe it for us? Get the descriptors and write them down.
  2. Get some examples – Another good way to define things well, is to gather some examples. These examples should be from your organization. Take something like team work. Ask for and find some good examples and illustrations of teamwork taking place in the organization. Asking an individual what do they think, do and say with regards to teamwork? This is a terrific way to understand how someone who is skilled at something does it; how it manifests in actions and attitudes.
  3. Observe counter examples – Another good way to define something is to know what it is not!
  4. Talk with others – Your manager, key colleagues, and HR. Tap into what they think and see that describes leading and managing well in your organization.
  5. Leverage existing work – Your organization may have an existing definition of leadership like a competency model, good job descriptions, etc. Utilize these to the fullest. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

With a good definition of leadership, your ability to describe and write-up your own professional goals will be greatly enhanced and become richer. A good definition within the context of your organization will help ensure your goals fit your organization better. Ultimately, as you practice and work on your goals based on a great definition of leadership and management, your efforts will be more visible and recognizable to others, leading to more success.

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