Leaders, it's time to start making time for personal development

In the fast-paced world we live in, leaders often forget one important thing: Their own personal development! Here is why you need to invest time in yourself as a leader.

Steffan Surdek
June 29, 2020
Personal growth

A while back, I added "leadership retreat facilitator" to the long list of services I offer clients. One of the big challenges of doing this is reaching out to various people in my network to find participants.

One of the excuses I hear often is the infamous "I would love to go, but my schedule won't allow it right now." The interesting thing is that these leaders often do have a genuine interest, but their work schedule seems to control them.

In this article, I'd like to talk about why and how leaders should create time for their personal development.

Leadership is about making what's not going to happen, happen

I talk about personal leadership with my clients in a way that seeks to empower them. In his book Managing On The Edge, Richard Pascale defines leadership this way: “Leadership is making happen what is not going to happen anyway.”

You may think this doesn't make sense, but think about it for a moment. How many times in your life did you speak about a project and have someone tell you it would never happen? Did you listen to them and give up, or do you make it happen anyway?

There are times we create our own limitations too. How many times have you told yourself something like, "I really want to do (insert activity here), but I can't because (insert reason here)?" Let me give you a basic example: "I really want to lose weight but I can't find the time to exercise."

Thinking in this way leaves you at the mercy of what is happening around you. What if, instead, you changed it to, "I really want to lose weight but I will not make the time to exercise." Which is more empowering to you? Which one leaves you with a feeling of having a choice you can make?

Putting your time and energy on the line

The same rule applies when it comes to making time for your personal development. When you want to be able to do something for yourself, what do you need to do to make it happen? What do you need to do to free yourself from your daily obligations so that you can leave and not worry about work?

I once wanted to participate in a development program I couldn't afford, so I negotiated with the organizers instead. I offered to do valuable work for them on my own time to offset the cost of my registration.

Instead of accepting that it could happen by default or giving up too fast, try looking at it from a different perspective. What are you willing to do to make something like this happen for yourself?

Sometimes, you need to show people you are willing to put some skin in the game too for things to happen. Are you willing to pay for part of it? Are you willing to take unpaid days or vacation days to go? How much do you really want it? What are you willing to do to allow it to happen?

Your personal development is your responsibility

As a leader, you have a responsibility to the people around you to invest in your own development. If you want to help your team grow, you need to be doing things to help you grow and be a better leader. You need to find safe spaces that will take you out of your comfort zone and help you think differently. You need to look for ways to test and stretch your limits.

If you don't, either your team will outgrow you or it will stagnate and forever stay at its current level. As leaders, we often get the teams that we deserve. Maybe not at first, but after a while, it becomes hard to deny that our teams are a direct reflection of ourselves.

Over the past eight years, I did a lot of work on myself. It was not always comfortable, but I learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable! My growth benefits everyone around me: my family, my colleagues as well as our clients.

Investing in your personal development can also encourage your team members to do so as well. When they see you doing it, they may ask you how they, too, can do some of the personal work you are doing. You may also have things to suggest to them — it's a virtuous circle.

Final Thoughts

Personal development is a necessity for leaders, especially as leadership shifts from directiveness and assertiveness to soft skills and self-awareness.

Take charge of your own personal development because no one else will. Trust me, your growth will spill across all aspects of your life and benefit the people around you. So make time for it.

What are you doing to help yourself grow, become a better leader and a better person? How are you making it possible for yourself to do this kind of work on yourself?