Let’s look at these tough truths a little more closely:
- No one cares more about your personal development than you do.
- No one else is responsible for your leadership development.
The leaders you admire have great intentions. They want to believe in you, support you, and invest in you (at least some of them do). But most of them are doing their best just to take care of themselves. They’re so consumed with their own responsibilities and their own development that they have little time or energy left over to look around and see whom they could be helping to develop.
That’s not to say you will never have a leader who sees great potential in you and makes a concerted effort to invest in training you and developing you; this tough truth is more about framing your expectations. If you can take responsibility early for your leadership development, you’ll be less likely to flounder around, wasting valuable time wallowing in unmet expectations of the leaders around you.
Remind yourself every day that you are your best champion. Then when a great leader takes an interest in developing you, it’s a bonus and a blessing. Your leadership development is your responsibility. Seize it.
Now let’s turn to the last two truths:
- You can’t wait for someone else to lead you.
- No one owes you leadership.
You’re a leader, and that means you’ve got to lead you. You have to take charge. You have to begin to define where you want to go, what you want to learn, and how you’re going to accomplish these things. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to run alone. It just means that you’ve got to be the kickstarter. Define some next steps, and then pull in some wise counselors for support and guidance.
Leadership development is not a right. It’s an opportunity and a privilege. Don’t expect it to come to you. Go and get it.
A great example of someone who understood these tough truths was my friend and colleague, Steve. It was almost like the two of us had an unspoken contest over who could learn the most. If our boss talked about a book she was reading, Steve would purchase it and start reading it himself. He was always on the lookout for conferences to attend that would help him develop as a marketing manager. He was intentional about following up with people he met. He was eager to learn from people in both similar and different professions. Steve never wasted an opportunity to learn. He embraced his responsibility for self-leadership, and as a result his career development has never slowed down.