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The greatest untapped resource for leadership development is experienced leaders who have done the work to improve their effectiveness as leaders. That’s why I recently conducted a survey – the PeopleThink Leadership Journey Survey – to capture insight, experience, and lessons learned from people who have “earned their stripes,” so to speak, as experienced leaders of teams and/or organizations in a variety of industries. I’ll be integrating the results of the survey into my GET REAL Leadership Program, which I’ll be rolling out early next year.

Survey respondents represented more than 10 different industries across the US and Europe. Industries included Technology, Life Sciences, Financial, Professional Services, Learning and Development, Nonprofit, and others.  Leadership roles represented ranged from Mid-Level Manager (17%) to Senior Leader (31%) to Founder/Entrepreneur (21%) to C-Level Executive (18%).  The average length of respondent leadership experience was 13+ years.

Here are some highlights of what the leaders collectively shared from their Leadership Journeys.

Primary purpose of a leader. The majority of respondents said that the primary purpose of a leader is to 1-Build a Strong Team.  Other purposes that rated highly include (in order):

2-Focus on the people (coach, develop, grow)

3-Achieve results

4-Set the vision

5-Shape the culture

Since one of the goals of the survey was to capture insight that I could incorporate into my leadership development and coaching work, I wanted to understand what respondents believed were some of the key actions that helped them achieve their purpose as a leader. Here are some responses:

“Hire the right people” (Build a strong team)

“Learn to listen” (Focus on the people)

“Hold yourself and others accountable (Achieve results)

“Communicate the vision” (Set the vision)

“Build trust” (Shape the culture)

Leadership competencies. Respondents identified the following as the competencies that most helped them succeed as leaders (in order)

1-People focus (coach, develop, grow)

2-Communication skills

3-See the big picture

4-Honesty/transparency

5-Innovation

Personal development. A rather alarming result from the survey was that while 74% of respondents said they believe that leaders should carve out time to develop their leadership competencies, 40% spend LESS THAN 15% of their time developing those competencies. Competencies they identified as important to work on:

1-Active listening

2-Seeking feedback from others

3-Being comfortable with change

4-Building trust

5-Having difficult conversations

Developing others. 86% of respondents said they believe that leaders should carve out time to help their people grow and develop. The top resources they currently make available to their people:

1-Conferences

2-Mentor

3-On-site training

4-Stretch assignments

5-Networking

Some of the greatest insight from the survey came from the open-ended questions where respondents were asked to reflect on what they would have done differently on their leadership journey, and what their key lessons learned were.

Self-reflection

“I would have invested in myself earlier in the journey.”

“I wish I had taken more risks.”

“I was once told that if I felt like an ‘imposter’ in my leadership role, then I didn’t understand my true value. So, I began to ask what value I provided, and in all my years as a leader that has made the biggest difference for me.”

“I would have started sooner to take more time to work on my leadership competencies.”

Lessons learned

“Hire the right people and invest in their development.”

“Focus on the people and the results will follow…This is now my leadership philosophy and it has proven true many times.”

“To make critical decisions, always keep in mind the mission and vision of the organization. When you lose sight of that, it never turns out well.”

“Delegate and empower people! It’s the only way to achieve multiples of what you can achieve on your own.”

“See the future, believe the future, feel the future.”

If you didn’t have the opportunity to complete the survey, but would like to share some insight or lessons learned from your leadership journey, please complete the The PeopleThink Leadership Journey Survey.

Thank you!

Till next time,

Karen

Leadership, leadership development, learning and development, Professional and team leadership

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