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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Changing Your Life

What do many effective leaders have in common? They believe in continual learning and development. Big-name CEOs like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are avid readers who are constantly gobbling up books. Former president John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” And the legendary Henry Ford believed that, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Strong leaders are avid, continual learners. They don’t stop seeking new opportunities after they’ve graduated or once they’ve landed a job; they treat every day as another chance to acquire knowledge and skills.

Why is lifelong learning so essential for leadership? How does curiosity and exploration build character, aid in personal development, and position you as a leader? Here are four ways:

1. Continuous Learning Makes You Adaptable

Today, the workplace landscape is shifting and evolving at a lightning-fast pace. We never know what tomorrow will bring and how our team will react. Therefore, effective leaders must be highly adaptable, quick on their feet, and innovative.

To remain relevant, leaders must endeavor to continually learn. New challenges are best faced if the leader is willing to gain new knowledge and adapt/adjust their thinking. There’s a reason medical doctors are required to continue their specialized education long after they graduate from medical school. Could you imagine going to a surgeon who was using standard practices from the 1940s?

The same is true in any office setting. Standards change; innovations occur. Capable leaders stay on top of those changes, adapt, and guide others to adapt as well.

2. Well-Rounded People Make the Best Leaders

To become well-rounded, you, as a leader, need to learn a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and areas of expertise. You don’t need to be an expert in everything, but it’s important to have a working knowledge of the world outside your niche, as it broadens your perspective, helps you understand others’ viewpoints, and gives you foundational knowledge in unfamiliar areas. Dare to step outside your comfort zone. Read history or philosophy if you’ve always been a numbers person. Take public speaking classes if you’re shy (Toastmasters is a great club for this). Learn a language. Focus on areas you’ve told yourself that you’re bad at, and give it another go. You may surprise yourself.

3. Learning Helps You Problem-Solve

If you’re constantly making an effort to learn new systems, programs, ways of thinking, etc., you’ll be more creative and mentally nimble when it comes to problem-solving. If you train your brain to perform many different tasks (no matter what they are), you’re enabling yourself for outside-the-box thinking.

4. Your Actions Will Encourage Others to Keep Learning

As a leader, you set the standards. Your pursuit of innovation and discovery will encourage your team to also prioritize continual learning. Demonstrate that you’re willing to dive into uncharted territory, get your hands dirty, and make mistakes. Your example will help develop a team that is willing to get creative, take a few risks, and figure out innovative ways to overcome obstacles.

How will you commit to continual learning? What will you do this week to help expand your horizons or learn a new skill? Start today!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Everyone’s put together a resume at some point. It compiles your experience, accolades, and awards. It shines a light on your main accomplishments. A resume is made to make you look good. So, why on earth would you consider putting together a “failure resume”??

I first learned about failure resumes from acclaimed author, Daniel Pink. This concept, created and articulated by Stanford professor Tina Seelig, can help us deal with disappointments, contextualize failures, and move forward in a positive way.

What is a failure resume and how does it work?

A failure resume is an ongoing list of the things you got WRONG. It’s your mess-ups, flubs, and things that went south. A failure resume is meant for YOU and your personal development, and is not something you would necessarily share with others (unless you want to!).

You can treat your failure resume like a journal at first, compiling your list of screw-ups in one spot. But it is not just a list. It’s a tool.

How do you use it?

After creating your failure resume, it’s important to go through the list and think about each item. Ask yourself what happened in each instance. Why did the failure occur? What might have prevented it? And, mostly importantly, what lessons can you glean from the failure?

Sometimes, a failure can be caused by unfortunate circumstances or happenstance, but oftentimes something could have prevented the failure. Spend time reflecting on this. Do you notice any patterns? Do your failures usually occur because of one or two things you are doing consistently?

Perhaps you are constantly overstretching or overcommitting yourself, thus failing to do your best work.

Or maybe you are not properly preparing for certain situations (meetings, presentations, etc.) and need to focus more on that.

Or, perhaps, your main issues are caused by communication—failure to clearly communicate a message, follow-up, communicate with the right people, etc.

By taking time to think about the “why” behind the failure, you can start making positive changes. And, hopefully, your failure resume will seem less discouraging and more empowering.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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It’s great to be happy. It’s wonderful to feel joy and hope. But does our society overemphasize these feelings? Judging by the plethora of self-help books, escapism social media, and online “happiness hacks,” that seems to be the case. Some sources have even called happiness a “cultural obsession.”

That may not seem like a bad thing on the surface, but it can have some unintended consequences. For one, if we’re constantly focused on obtaining happiness, we may not be fully present. We’re so focused on our happiness dreams, that we forget to appreciate what we have. As behavior expert Patrick Wanis says, “We place our happiness somewhere off in the future and therefore we’re never able to enjoy where we are now because we’re always thinking we’re only going to be happy when we get to be, do, or have something.”

Additionally, the expectation to be happy all the time is frankly unrealistic. We might logically know that our friends and acquaintances are not happy at all hours of the day—their lives are not flawless and worry-free—but that doesn’t stop us from viewing them that way. We constantly see pictures on Instagram or Facebook of happy, smiling people drinking cocktails, taking vacations, posing with their families, cooking perfect dishes, and we wonder why we don’t stack up. Why isn’t my life that happy? What am I doing wrong?

This is how obtaining happiness can become more of an obsession than a healthy pursuit. But what if we were to shift our focus so that happiness isn’t the end goal, but rather a fortunate side effect? That’s where “usefulness” comes into play.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

When we make ourselves useful through daily work, volunteerism, helping others, donating our dollars or time, etc., we de-emphasize happiness. We shift the focus from ourselves to others. That’s not to say self-care isn’t important (it is! And I’ve talked about that in several blogs posts), but focusing on others and living a purpose-driven life is just as important.

And, guess what? You’ll likely feel happiness anyway!

Doing your best work, volunteering, or caring for a sick friend can all be satisfying in their own way. Even though your end goal isn’t happiness, it’s a fortunate side effect that often accompanies living within your purpose or doing good deeds.

As a nation, it may do us all a lot of good to stop obsessing over happiness and start emphasizing usefulness. What might life look like if we dared to follow this pursuit?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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