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Reflection Series, Part I: An Introduction to the Abstract

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

How many of us can recall at least one instance of sitting in some lecture or professional development session where the speaker commented, “So, as you reflect on…” or “I challenge you to reflect on this matter this week and…”? Moreover, I personally have yet to find a formal leader development model that does not include some major component titled “reflection.” We cannot escape this word in any conversation relating to leadership or leader development.

So, if reflection is so important to leadership and leader development, how in the heck do we do it? When I think about reflection, I think about some abstract artistic process where a highly-creative leader comes up with a profound product or quote. I envision a leader like John Maxwell going into a room alone and emerging hours later covered in sweat and a whiteboard filled with his new “beautiful mind” revelations. I find this discouraging because I’m not known to be a creative person.

However, I’m a leader, therefore I must reflect, right? Short answer: Yes! Reflection is critical for effective and sustainable leader development and growth. Experience and new knowledge (such as from reading or formal education) alone is not sufficient for impactful leader growth. We need to deliberately take time to think about what we’ve experienced and learned, clarify and make meaning of the lesson, and be able to do something different in the future to improve our impact and performance as leaders. With that being said, reflection is much more of an art than a science. No two people reflect in the same way. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part I: An Introduction to the Abstract

Three New Benefits I Learned About Writing and Sharing

Benefits of Writing_3x5 Leadership

A number of other amateur writers and I have shared numerous thoughts on why we write, and moreover, have challenged our readers to do the same. From contributing to a community of practice, to writing as a means of learning, and forming your legacy, writing has its numerous benefits, both to your greater profession and to you personally.

I started my own writing and the 3×5 Leadership platform over 18 months ago under the premise of two ideas: 1) leader development occurs daily, not in a day, and 2) though my experiences are singular, the lessons from them certainly are not. With no real expectation that others would value, let alone read, my thoughts, I started to write in order to offer reflections from my experiences and recommended application to help others on their daily leader growth journey. Continue reading → Three New Benefits I Learned About Writing and Sharing

What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

Leadership One Big Thing_3x5 Leadership

I met with a friend recently who just finished reading Radical Inclusion, by GEN (Ret.) Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman. During our conversation, he anxiously claimed, “there is so much from that book that I want to start doing, I don’t even know where to start.”

I think we have all been there in some capacity. I felt the same way when I finished David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! Personally, with all of the books, blogs, journals, and podcasts I routinely engage in, it is easy for me to get overwhelmed with the new ideas for leadership improvement and organizational development. I often feel compelled to do it all now, though I know it won’t be effective or sustainable. Even all of the 3×5 Leadership blog posts, when considered collectively, can easily send a message of “do all of this now!”

So, I want to offer a simple model of personal leader development and a strategy to focus on the most important improvements to develop as a leader. The model, below, is broken down into four steps that I recommend you follow, where each step encourages you to write out a statement or a list. You’ll end with an identified leader behavior to improve on, the purpose of it, an actionable strategy, and timeline to work in it. Continue reading → What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Willingness to Learn_Growth Mindset_3x5 Leadership

Inherent to leader development and many of the posts on 3×5 Leadership is the idea that we are all continuously growing and developing our leader capacities. This, then, assumes that leadership is a learned ability and not really a natural trait that we are or are not born with. In my leadership roles within the organizations I serve, I routinely assert that a major goal for my leader development programs is to inspire peoples’ commitment to being life-long learners.

So, how exactly do we approach developing this attitude of and passion for learning leadership? I argue that we must differentiate one’s ability to learn from their willingness to. According to The Center for Creative Leadership’s Leader Development Model, one’s ability to learn from experience is a complex combination of motivational factors, personality factors, and learning tactics; it is one’s cognitive ability and achieved skill of efficiently receiving new knowledge. This is different from a willingness to learn, or what is called a “growth mindset,” which is a term popularized by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A growth mindset, one’s willingness to learn, is understanding that intelligence and leadership ability is not fixed, but can be gained, and they see learning as valuable in itself. People with growth mindsets commit to learning and are willing to take responsible risks in order to improve. Continue reading → A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century

The Character of 21st Century Leaders_3x5 Leadership

In May 1991, following Desert Storm and months before his retirement, GEN Norman Schwartzkopf gave a speech to United States Military Academy (USMA) Cadets. In it, he argued that the two essential traits that must define leaders of the 21st century are competence and character (I highly encourage you to check out the inspiring speech here, in parts one, two, and three). So much time, money, and effort are poured into developing leader competence to achieve performance capacity and organizational success. Hundreds of books, journals, podcasts, and blogs (to include this one) center around developing leader competence. Yet, we pay less attention to character development. I believe it is because character is so intangible, hard to define, and even difficult to determine its impact on an organization; I think it is easy to determine if someone has bad character but it is less clear to determine if they have good character.

Deliberately addressing character is an organizational and leader developer necessity; the lack of such attention is ultimately the root cause of our society’s seemingly extensive erosion of integrity and respect showcased by the many downfalls of high visibility leaders (to include military) and once respected celebrities. My previous brigade commander constantly reiterated to his subordinate leaders that “character counts more than resume.” Continue reading → Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century

You Need a Peer Coach to Become a Better Leader

Peer Coaching

No one grows as a leader without the support from others, which includes superiors, peers, and even subordinates alike. We need people to help make sense of our experiences and of the world. We are often familiar with developmental relationships where we learn from the experience of others, such as through mentoring and on-the-job learning from superiors within your chain of command. Further, many are gaining familiarity with the idea of coaching as a leadership tool, which you can read more about HERE.

Beyond these developmental relationships, which tend to be an “up-down” relationship (a relationship between a superior and subordinate), there is still one source often untapped: your professional peers. Properly leveraged, your peers can be your best source of learning, professional encouragement, and accountability. Peer coaching is an ideal structure for reflection and just one more reflective activity to add to your arsenal of leader learning tools. Through reflection and feedback within your peer coaching relationship, you develop a clearer awareness of personal behaviors and beliefs that affect your performance. Further, work experience alone is insufficient to foster effective learning; we require the assistance of a partner. Continue reading → You Need a Peer Coach to Become a Better Leader

How to Recognize Your Leadership Shortcomings

Packham 

By John Packham

A friend of mine joined the U.S. Army back in 2000, and he told me was as green as the uniform they made him wear. His boots were too big and he stuffed them with tissue paper to avoid having to go back to stores to get a new size. He said he was afraid of everyone he met. They all seemed to have their act together and the leadership rank was very clear: privates were on the bottom. He knew that if he wanted to become worth more than the chevrons on his chest, he was going to have to earn it. The same is true of leadership in business and life, I believe. If you want to be thought of as a great leader, you need to earn that title and respect. We’ve all met our fair share of leaders who were incapable of “doing a good job” and wonder why they couldn’t see that about themselves? One of the things that make leaders great is their ability to recognize their shortcomings and continue to improve upon them. But how do you identify those shortcomings? And who even wants to point out flaws in themselves? Good leaders, that’s who. Continue reading → How to Recognize Your Leadership Shortcomings

Leader Awareness Series Part IV: Other Helpful Assessments

Tank

This is the conclusion of the Leader Awareness Series, which addresses the need for leaders to be self-aware. Research proves that the more a leader is self-aware, the higher their performance. Bottom line: the more self-aware you are, the better leader you are. This post addresses some additional self-assessments (these ones not necessarily tied to a studied leadership theory) to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware. You can start the series with Part I here.

In the previous two posts, I covered eight leadership theories and associated self-assessments. In this post, I continue by presenting four more assessments that are based on more current research, highly applicable to contemporary leadership, and/or are not directly related to the study of leadership but can help explain your leadership style. Continue reading → Leader Awareness Series Part IV: Other Helpful Assessments

Leader Awareness Series Part III: Leader Assessment Instruments Continued

img3.thejournal.ie

This is a continuation of the Leader Awareness Series, which addresses the need for leaders to be self-aware. Research proves that the more a leader is self-aware, the higher their performance. Bottom line: the more self-aware you are, the better leader you are. This post addresses the remaining four (of eight) self-assessments to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware. Check out the beginning of this series here, and the first four leadership theories and assessments here.

In the previous post, I covered four leadership theories and associated self-assessments. In this post, I continue by presenting the remaining four theories and assessments, and conclude the post with some questions to consider during subsequent reflection. Continue reading → Leader Awareness Series Part III: Leader Assessment Instruments Continued

Leader Awareness Series Part II: Leader Assessment Instruments

img2.thejournal.ie

This is a continuation of the Leader Awareness Series, which addresses the need for leaders to be self-aware. Research proves that the more a leader is self-aware, the higher their performance. Bottom line: the more self-aware you are, the better leader you are. This post addresses four (of eight) self-assessments to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware.

As stated in Part I, the academic study of leadership is about a century old. To this point, there are around 15 major leadership theories, each theory having several proprietary models to explain and enact that theory. Below are eight assessments that are based on eight of those theories that best aid in leaders becoming more self-aware.

With each assessment, I outline what it aims to measure and how to interpret scores. I also introduce the theory that the assessment stems from and if that assessment can be used to obtain 360-degree feedback. If I claim the assessment can be used as 360-degree feedback, I recommend readers print out up to five additional copies of that particular assessment and have available superiors, peers, and/or subordinates complete the assessment ON YOU as well. That way, you can compare the results of your self-test to their responses. I know mention of 360-degree feedback may trigger anxiety from Army readers due to the MSAF-360 tool. 360-degree tools mentioned throughout this series are considerably shorter. Most important to stress though, is the value of receiving this type of feedback. I encourage readers interested in this series to be willing to commit to receiving external feedback as part of it in order to achieve the most value possible. Continue reading → Leader Awareness Series Part II: Leader Assessment Instruments