3 Ways to Stay Sharp as a Leader

When the new iPhone comes out all you have to do is have enough money and stand in a line to get it. Once in hand you have adapted to the newest technology. If only leaders could stay ahead of the culture the same way as standing in line to buy a new iPhone. Unfortunately, teams evolve and environments change. It’s hard to keep the edge up, but we must adapt. One must continually develop their talent and skills in order to keep up with the culture around them. It’s not a question of if you should, it’s necessary. You must be adaptable as a leader. Over the last few years I’ve found a few key elements that have helped me stay sharp as a leader so that when I do enter a new environment or the team changes I am prepared to adjust as needed to lead those around me.

BalanceStress is nobody’s friend. The more stressed you are the higher chance you have at making mistakes. Stress takes a number on the body as well. Knowing when to take a break can relieve stress. This is why being resilient is so important. Resiliency is the ability to cope, adjust and recover from stresses or adversity. We live in a go, go, go society and the standard for working overtime is well, normal and sometimes expected. It may be necessary at time to put in the extra hours, but how many extra hours are we putting in when it’s not necessary? The human body wasn’t meant to work 12 hours a day. We created that standard. Whatever the case, time for yourself and your family is always necessary for staying balanced with work and your personal life. Everyone handles stress differently, but it’s safe to say the best way to relieve work stress is to not work. Ensure you prepare time for you. Work will always be there. It can take time to find the balance you need to remain at the top of your game, but there is a balance.

Professional Development/Mentor – Every goal I have reached I can rewind back and point out at least one person who helped me get there. Not everyone will be a mentor, but it’s beneficial to have one. I have a few mentors and anytime I need advice about a decision, or another perspective on a situation I ask them. Think of them like a trusted adviser. Ensure you pick a mentor that knows a little about what you’re going through. They must have experience and knowledge about the path you’re pursuing. Mentors help you grow, they help you progress in your career goals and they can be great coaches. Find a mentor that can be there for you, but don’t forget that a mentor and mentee relationship is reciprocal. It’s a two way street. Mentors will help develop you into the person you have the potential to be. Having a mentor is one form of professional development, but there are other things you may need to do in order to get the development you need. I spend much of my time reading. I gain a lot of insight from reading books about topics such as leadership, entrepreneurship, innovation, and psychology. Hearing other people’s stories and advice can help you understand specific areas of interest. I also attend seminars, participate in book clubs, Twitter chats, and discussions on specific topics. Whatever you can do to further your knowledge and understanding of a topic, or area of interest should be something you do continually and consistently. Never stop learning and never stop growing.

Self-Awareness (strengths/weaknesses) – Have you ever handled a situation with your weaknesses? No. Of course not. You take things head on with strengths, but you’ve got to know them in order to know how and when to use them. You must be self-aware of what you’re good at and what needs improvement. Most of us can’t point out our weaknesses because we don’t operate with them. For me, someone pointed them out to me. I received feedback which is a great way to help learn them. You can also take a personality test or a strength/weakness test to hone in on each. Above all, you’ve got to put the work in. For anyone joining a team, self-awareness is a great place to begin. There will always be strengths and weaknesses and you get better with practice, knowledge and understanding. Be aware of when to take action and when to step back and learn from someone else.