Exploring Leadership: A Personal Journey Part 7 – Interview Question: What have you found to be helpful in your personal/professional development?

This blog is part of a series.  Last year, I embarked on a personal development project with the aim of discovering what skills I would need to become the leader I had always looked for.  I identified successful leaders from nonprofit, corporate and education backgrounds and asked them the same series of six questions, the results of which are shared in this 8-part series.  Use the arrows at the bottom of the page to navigate between the related posts.

One of the goals of this blog was to share what I had learned from my interviews to encourage and inspire others!  So, here’s a summary of what this group of leaders found helpful in their personal and professional development and I hope that it might provide a new avenue for you to explore in your own journey.  


Leadership, by definition, involves other people.  Each person comes with their own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and in order to effectively lead others, you have to be aware of how they’re feeling and what they need.  The first step in being able to do this is to first look inward and identify and understand your own thought patterns, emotions, and habitual behaviors and this group of leaders identified several tools that aided in increasing their own self-awareness.

Self-Awareness Tools

  1. Assessments – The one’s below were mentioned specifically but there are many more!
    1. CliftonStrengths Assessment
    2. Enneagram Personality Portraits
  2. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Training
  3. Professional/Executive Coaching  


Every leader I interviewed reads, REGULARLY.  Some had the opportunity to be part of book studies through their employers and found the discussions even more helpful.  If that isn’t an option for you, find a book club, a partner, or journal your reflections, do anything that helps you process and think more deeply about what you read.       

Recommended Reading

  1. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  2. Situational Leadership by Kenneth H. Blanchard 
  3. The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner
  4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni 
  5. Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson M.D. 


One of the reasons these leaders are so successful is they don’t believe they have to have all the answers or always do it their way.  They look for others who are already doing it well and learn from them, both within and outside of their organization.  These leaders see their job as to surround themselves with people who know their specialty area better than the leader and rely on their expertise.  And, if the team isn’t getting the results they want, these leaders don’t create blame.  They recognize even as a team they won’t always have all the answers.  Instead, they invest in learning opportunities; they might bring in outside evaluators or an expert to lead team coaching.  And when they need it, they ask for help!  Which leads to… 


LEADERSHIP IS HARD!  If we’re lucky, we find a supportive professional environment where we get to be part of a team willing to work and grow together.  A team that looks at relevant data and evaluates what we can learn from it, but also, one that supports each other when the work gets challenging.  One of the leaders shared that an employer held quarterly 2 or 3-day management conferences; three of which were held in their hometown, while the fourth was out-of-town and always focused solely on fun, team bonding activities.  These conferences were some of the most impactful experiences in that individual’s leadership journey.        

Other leaders shared they were intentional in finding other professionals, outside of their workplace, who do the same type of work to be able to share in the challenges and concerns but also problem-solve some of the overarching issues they all face.  And others rely on their faith community to keep them grounded and give perspective.

As we’re experiencing, now more than ever, connection and community are a part of the human experience and, when things get tough, it is others that help us carry the burden.  So when the challenges of leadership arise, we need a trusted community we can rely on. 

Are you growing your self-awareness?  Are you reading every day or every week?  Are you looking to others who are achieving what you want to achieve?  And do you have a community that supports and inspires you?  If you answered no to one or more of these questions, know you are not alone.  However, if you’re looking to progress in your leadership journey but aren’t quite sure how, let this serve as a guide to help you become the leader you want to be!        

NEXT: Exploring Leadership: A Personal Journey Part 8 – Final Thoughts

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