Why Great Leaders Love Self-Development

By Lou Solomon

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Why do so many leaders stop working on themselves? Most likely, it’s because, at some point in life, we think we know a little more than we do.

A few years back, I worked with a talented manager named Richard, who could tell you what great leaders do. He told me what he knew about leadership communication the first time we met. He thought he had good relationships with his teammates.

word map describing self-development and personal development

When we sat down to go over his survey results, he was devastated to learn he did not have good relationships. One of his teammates wrote:

“Richard doesn’t care about anything but the numbers.”

If you fail to make genuine connections with your team members, it doesn’t matter what you “know.”

Self-Development Helps in Crucial Moments

Not long ago, Interact Studio joined with the Harris Poll to conduct an online survey of 1,000 employed U.S. workers.

The survey revealed that most leaders are not engaging in crucial moments that could help employees see them as trustworthy. Specifically, recognizing employee accomplishments, giving clear directions, giving feedback, meeting in person, and showing interest in the well-being lives of others.

It’s reassuring that many leaders understand the importance of these crucial moments and the value of self-development. They stay on the leadership journey by going within and doing the hard work they expect from others.

Here are 5 benefits of self-development:

1. Self-awareness is a muscle.

If you never work out, your muscles begin to fail, and you will lose your edge. Leaders who endure are students of their leadership. Great leaders know that the better they understand themselves, the better they will understand the people they’re leading. Healthy communication requires the energy of connection — with inclusion, recognition, clear directions, meaningful interaction, and feedback as the company’s nerve center.

cartoon of woman standing in a pot watering herself, a metaphor for self-development leading to growth2. Strengths are key.

Great leaders see development as a critical process to harness their talents — motivating them and inspiring others to do the same. High-performance teams allow each member to do what they do best.

3. Overcoming blindspots takes two.

You may want to hire a coach to help you pinpoint blind spots. It is impossible to do the work effectively by yourself, and it’s time well spent. Your best work will come while managing blindspots of assumption, judgment, dominance, etc. Personal development is an ongoing process of constant learning.

4. Inspire others with a commitment to learning.

Help your people find their path of personal development by showing them your commitment to your own. Be the leader who sees endless possibilities in themselves and others.

5. Learn to stand in uncomfortable places.

Personal development can help you gain the confidence to confront risk. The way you handle conflict and crisis is a window into your leadership.

Once you decide there is nothing more for you to learn, you become finite and eventually brittle. You close yourself off from the best versions of yourself.

A Closer Look at the Research

If you’re the kind of boss who is too busy to make genuine connections with your direct reports, you might want to slow down. Our research shows that 91% of employees say communication issues can drag executives down.

In our survey, employees called out the kind of management offenses that point to a striking lack of emotional intelligence among business leaders, including being impersonal, indecisive, and unclear. In rank order, the following were the top communication issues people said were preventing business leaders from being effective:

a chart showing communication issues that prevent effective leadership, issues that self-development can help avoid

All of the communication issues listed above have something in common. They are all an easy fix. If you are willing to embrace the process of lifelong learning and continue your self-development well into your career, you will see your communication skills continue to grow. Self-development creates strong communication which turns into strong leadership.

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