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Make yourself a “to become” list

4 min read


Leaders need to constantly develop themselves as human beings. There is so much external change for them to adapt to that the need to be intentional about personal development is essential. The best leaders I know are staying current and agile through change by developing themselves.

A checklist of “to dos” is fine, but it isn’t enough anymore. Your ability to respond to change and sustain your leadership over time requires you to persistently “become” a better leader through improving the behaviors that allow you to lead at your best.

So what you really need is a list of “to becomes.” Consider the aspects of your leadership you need to ramp up to become the best you can be. For the record, I’m not advocating that you change who you are. I’m suggesting that you keep yourself whole and genuine while changing your behavior to become more effective.

Your behavior affects those around you. How you conduct yourself is essential to influencing, managing change, fostering teamwork, and developing others.

So as you conceive your leadership development plan, think in terms of the behaviors you need to take on or change.

For starters: some examples of things you might need to become:

Become a better listener: Most leaders have room to get better at listening. It’s a powerful skill that, when exercised, is capable of being the foundation for influencing others, delegating effectively, increasing empathy and leading change to name a few. As you consider that big global project that you need to start (the “to do”), think about the impact that listening better (the “to become”) can have on the project’s success. How might better listening help you to assure that success?

Become more inclusive: When you think about your stakeholders in wider terms and begin to include them in the work you do (through participation or simply by getting their opinions or feedback) you’ll find that their input makes your job easier. You might be feeling like you’re pushing a boulder uphill right now, but assuring the inclusion of important stakeholders can make the boulder smaller and the terrain flatter. Who can help you?

Become curious: If you’ve been doing your work awhile with a history of success, you are in danger of getting stuck in “your way” of doing things. Yet the external environment is changing, and there is a demand for your organization to become more efficient, more creative or to work faster. Being genuinely curious can open you to new ideas. Before you reject that new idea, ask yourself: What is it about this that is intriguing? How might it work for us?

Become more approachable: Leadership is about influencing others. If you’re not making an effort to create the relationships necessary to influence others in order to achieve organizational goals, you’re not leading. Who do you need to connect with? What relationships, when fostered, will be beneficial to your mission (while being gratifying by themselves)?

Become more caring: Effective leaders truly care about others. They are kind, respectful, compassionate and empathetic. They see others not as a means to an end but as human beings who want to be valued for who they are first and what they can do for the organization second. What’s the first step you can take to become a more caring leader?

Every leader has something they need to work on to “up their game,” and when they achieve that developmental goal, the next one is waiting close behind it. What do you need to become?

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 10 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages large-scale corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.