Leadership Development – The Plan for the Next 2 Years

In what ways do you want to develop your leadership potential in the MBA program?  

   This is an interesting question.  It’s easy to just want to be a better leader, but the question forces you to think more concretely.  As part of the MBA program, we did a “leadership 360” survey that solicits feedback from peers, direct reports, and supervisors.  If you went to Squadron Officer School, you’ve seen this before.  Thank you to all the people that filled this out for me (especially if you did it in 2012 for my first survey!), the feedback was amazing and it helps me identify my weaknesses.

    One of my lower scores was in self awareness.  The assessment had some recommendations for improving self awareness that might be worth a try:  

  • Engage in self-reflection.  I’m already blogging and keeping a journal, and it’s helped immensely to make sense of the things that are happening and my reactions to them.  
  • Undertake self-observation and mindfulness practices.  I have a mindfulness meditation app, I can definitely use it to start off every day when I take the dog out for a walk.  
  • Explore what psychologists call your ‘implicit theories’ about yourself, as well as your beliefs about good leaders and effective leadership.  A theory is a story we maintain in our heads that helps to explain how things work.  So what is your story about your ‘best’ leadership, or the ‘best’ leader you worked with?  That story will guide the way you behave and also the way others perceive you and behave.  List what you feel are the top positive attributes of effective leaders and compare your list to a colleague’s list.  Definitely a topic for a future blog post!
  • Conduct a “Reflected Best Self” exercise – ask people who know you best, both personally and professionally, to tell you stories about you when you are operating at your best. Compare this with your own thoughts, story or implicit theory about times when you are at your best and work to align self-other views.  Can do!

  The other improvement area was in “balanced processing.”  One of my raters had some really important feedback for me:  I have a tendency to lead small groups quickly and make decisions on behalf of the group without considering what everyone has to say.  Once I get a routine I tend to stick with it.  It’s something that I need to work on, and the feedback was really well written.  When we broke out into our core teams and did a ‘feedforward’ exercise (basically you self-identify problems that you want to work on in the future), this was the problem I wanted to address.  The recommendations from the 360 assessment are pretty cut and dry:

  • Seek out conflicting perspectives when making important decisions.
  • Pay attention to your personal biases and tendencies to stereotype people or situations that might interfere with openness to important input. Uncover and understand the assumptions that underlie your decisions.
  • Create diverse teams by ensuring diversity of backgrounds and beliefs and explore how that diversity can and does influence decisions.

    I’ve already started the path to accomplishing some of these recommendations.  Practicing mindfulness will help relieve the feeling of time pressure that might cause me to make a decision on behalf of the group.  Journaling and blogging will help me improve my self-awareness and help me recognize if I’m starting to take over.  A teammate also recommended that I physically write down or record everyone’s thoughts on a particular decision so I make sure I get everyone.  

  My raters also recommended that I improve:

  • Push for higher levels of management and leadership.  Seek more responsibility and leadership opportunities.  Time to join some clubs!
  • More delegation of tasks.  While our core teams will have work distributed pretty evenly, this is definitely something to work on and be cognizant of if I get a leadership position in a club next year.

  So I have a lot to work on!  In the near term, I’ll be writing a lot more, but not just in this blog.  In my entire Air Force career, I’ve never had this much time to focus on self-reflection.  I look forward to more team events and learning from my fellow students, and building proficiency at holding productive discussions and seeking consensus.  

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