How open-minded do you believe you are? We all believe we are objective thinkers. The fact is that the way we view a situation often prevents us from seeing other things that could be right in front of us. As humans, we’ve been conditioned by our education and culture to see things the way that we do. In fact, the last time any of us truly had a pure, objective, open-minded thought was in infancy! After that, the world took over in shaping our thinking and perception.

Our conditioning impacts how we view our roles as leaders. When you recall some leaders you’ve admired – what traits did they demonstrate that caught your attention? Do you think those traits are inherent or is it more likely their life’s journey molded them into the leaders they are?

A True Assessment of Your Leadership Potential

If we want to be the type of leader we admire, our first step is to seek external information. Ironically, it’s input from others that help us develop a stronger and truer sense of self-awareness, which is critical in developing and honing our leadership skills. It takes courage to hear and accept honest feedback, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle.

Beyond understanding the ins and outs of who you are and how others perceive you, you’ll also want to prepare yourself to DO something about improving the areas that are less than stellar. Listen attentively to feedback and ask yourself what are you willing to take action on? Are you committed to doing the work to improve your traits for the goal of becoming a better leader?

Are You Blocking Yourself From Succeeding?

If you’re already pushing back on these ideas, that’s a clear indicator that something needs to be adjusted – STAT! And that’s your perception, your attitude. When you hear a respected colleague suggest that you could work on changing or improving on this or that, what’s the very first reaction from your mind and your body? Are you listening eagerly with an open mind or tensing up and pushing back and thinking that’s nonsense?

Your attitude toward making necessary changes to improve your leadership skills is more than half the battle. And if you’re sitting back, convinced that you’ve already got what it takes and that your peers are the ones that need to change their attitude, then you’ve already limited your ability to break through.

Our attitudes impact the way we think since they are our habits of thought. The way we think impacts our behavior; the way we behave impacts our results. If we want to get different and lasting results, it’s not enough to change our behavior. We have to start with changing our attitudes, which will, in turn, change our behavior, and then change our results. 

It's all easier said than done because of our conditioning – what we’ve been taught since we were old enough to understand what was being said around us. When we’ve been brought up in a certain mindset, it’s difficult to change as an adult. But – if you sincerely want to improve your leadership skills and make an impact on your organization – it’s up to you to make the decision to be open to listening, learning and taking the required action.

Embracing New Skills and Knowledge

Humans learn in 3 ways – by inspiration, by impact, by spaced repetition.

We are motivated and inspired into action when we experience someone stepping up to do or create something extraordinary. We admire people who have the skills and traits we would like for ourselves. Whether it’s someone in your professional or social life, it’s easy to recall someone we would like to emulate. By absorbing those individuals’ words and actions we learn what makes them great and how we can be more like them.

We learn by experiencing the result of an action. If you workout every day for an hour, at the end of the month you’ll notice results in your energy level and others will likely notice a change in your physical appearance. Conversely, if you take up unhealthy habits, you and others around you will realize the impact – a decreased quality of sleep, a loss of energy and even your physical appearance may be altered to the point where people take note. So when we take a negative or positive action and we experience the result, we learn from that impact.

And finally, you may not agree with “learning by repetition” but how else do you think we could have taken in all the facts that we did in grade school? Historical dates, capitals of states, the multiplication table – our teachers used spaced repetition to make sure all that information stuck in our heads for years to come.

If you welcome the learning journey, you’re on your way to embracing the leadership skills that can impact your career and your organization.