Your Board of Directors
Leadership is Learned
Leadership skills are behaviors that are attainable by everyone. While some people have natural abilities regarding communication, or a personality that might help them be more readily identified as a leader, leadership skills can be improved through study, practice, and coaching.
Leadership is best learned in community. Finding a few people to help you can speed the process up exponentially. People have told me they would rather learn through experience and simply “learned by doing.” While there is value in trial and error, that process alone can be painful. Vern Law, former major league pitcher said, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.” Wisdom dictates that you take the initiative and decided to recruit people who could help you forge a path in your leadership journey.
In their book, Learning Leadership, Kouzes and Posner challenge leaders to create their own “Board of Directors,” a small group of people whose voice and experience a leader can draw on to make decisions and navigate issues.
Schedule 30 minutes in a quiet place and break out your leadership journal (every leader needs one). Create a list of all the people that might be able to provide you guidance in your current position. It may be people who have been leaders for years, or a person who was recently promoted into a position with a unique perspective you could learn from. You may choose a leader you know from another organization, or you may choose a leader on the front-line to ensure you keep a balanced perspective in your position. Only consider people whose insight you trust and who you can count on to be honest and straightforward with you when you ask for input. Make this list as long as possible.
Narrow the List
Next, narrow the list. Ensure that you keep people on the list that can provide you varied perspectives and insight. As you face the challenges of leadership, you want people who represent managers, front line staff and positional leaders. Continue narrowing these names until you have four to seven people you trust implicitly: your very own “Board of Directors.”
Take the Next Step
Once you identify these people, reach out to them, and ask them to lunch. During lunch, ask them if they would serve as a mentor for you and set up a scheduled time to meet. Choose one time a month to one time a quarter based on what you feel you need. The expectation is you will ask their advice on challenges you face or decisions you need to make, and they can expect a free lunch in return.
Most people find that having a board of directors is highly valuable to their growth as a leader. The different perspectives help you make balanced, well thought out decisions and having a support group of mentors can help alleviate the stress leaders feel as they navigate complex situations and environments.