THE BLOG

9 Things to Do to Grow As a Leader

03/04/2015 11:01 am ET | Updated May 04, 2015

Corporations, governments, universities and global development organizations alike have released research highlighting a shortage of quality leaders. However, more than ever before, the need for globally-minded leaders is at an all-time high. While leadership is not something that is developed overnight, it is a skill that can be developed. The following tips are proven to help you grow as a globally-minded leader:

1. Write Down Your Goals, Seriously

Research has found that if you write down your goals, even if you never look at them again, you have a much higher likelihood of achieving them.  To do so, go grab a cup of coffee and document your dream position, the skills you want to develop, and even the things you want to do from a personal standpoint.

2. Develop Your Grit

More than any other skill, Grit is the best predictor of success. By becoming aware of your "grittiness", and learning how to strengthen it, you will be more likely to succeed in all walks of life.

Take the free GRIT assessment and watch this TED Talk about grit.

3. Find Your Purpose Pattern

As Simon Sinek famously stated, "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it". Your "purpose" is the foundation of your ability to be effective in your role, and will continue to fuel your growth. Understanding your "why" will help you be more effective in your current and future roles.

4. Always Be Closing Learning

If you've taken a class on business development, you've heard about ABC - Always Be Closing. Leaders need a similar motto - Always Be Learning. Everybody has skills worth developing... it might be in something technical, like the latest technology; it might be in soft skills, like cross-culture communication; or it might be in more effective use of tools, like Excel training.  Similar to your goals, write of list of the skills you need, prioritize them, and then start learning them.

Use a service like SkilledUp to find a course that's best for you, or connect to an expert in the field using SoHelpful for tips on what you should learn next.

5. Complete the TED Talk MBA

This collection of TED Talks will open your mind to thought-leaders around the world. In doing so you'll learn more than best practices. You'll be exposed to the habits and thought-patterns of the world's most innovative and impactful people.

6. Start Using a Career Coach Today

This point is a little counterintuitive at first: The best time to start looking for a new job is when you're in the love with the one you have. For this same reason, by the time you are unhappy with your job, you've waited too long to find a career coach. Career coaches don't require much time and they don't have to be expensive. You don't even need to pay for one... a career coach can be anybody that you meet with somewhat regularly, at least once a quarter, to talk about your current job, your career path, and ways to continue growing.

Here are tips to find a career coach on HBR, WSJ, and Forbes.

7. Get International Experience

The importance of international experience in the 21st century global economy cannot be overstated, and indeed, is frequently mentioned in research about leadership development. If you want to grow as a leader, you need international exposure. Common ways include:

  1. Do a Global Fellowship - Engage in a structured learning program that uses international experience. Here is a list.
  2. Go Experteering - Volunteer your real skills with social impact organizations anywhere you want to travel, and for any length of time. Find projects.
  3. Go back to school - Get a formal degree or certificate in anything related to international topics. Whether you choose a Masters' Program with international components or a certificate program like FMS, make sure it includes ample time in the field.
  4. Go with your company - Do an international rotation with your company. If you don't qualify or if your company doesn't have one, get creative. Use your vacation or sabbatical to gain that experience. You can even work with your company to develop an international corporate volunteering program. In fact, research supports the fact that your boss should give you time off to travel, and pay you for it.

8. Work with a Mentor

In addition to a coach, you should work with a mentor, too. Whether you find a mentor through work, an online tool, or in your professional network, research proves that mentors can help you be higher performing. Most importantly, they can help you learn faster from your successes and failures.

9. Engage in Skilled Volunteering

Nothing accelerates development more than experience, and skills-based volunteering is proven to have transformative benefits. In addition to making you healthier and happier, it is also proven to help you develop skills and grow as a leader, especially if done internationally while on vacation, sabbatical, and/or career breaks. Why international? Increasingly, companies are looking for leaders with global exposure, so using your skills in foreign settings can prove your capacity to lead in global and resource-constrained environments.


In Summary:

If you take your leadership development into your own hands you'll position yourself for a brighter, more impactful future. In summary:

  1. Write down your goals
  2. Develop your grit
  3. Find your purpose pattern
  4. Always be learning
  5. Complete the TED Talk MBA
  6. Start using a career coach
  7. Get international experience
  8. Work with a mentor
  9. Engage in skilled volunteering