You’ve heard the term personal development, but what exactly does that mean?
How does what you do in your personal time have anything to do with being a great leader? Can’t personal development and leadership qualities develop independently of each other—or are they intrinsically related?
We know there are some highly successful leaders who are utter disappointments outside of the workplace. However, by and large, truly great leaders are also great people—even when they aren’t being watched or intentionally leading and expecting others to follow.
Here’s a look at what defines personal development, some traits that supercharge a person’s leadership abilities, and how to cultivate a curiosity (and a love) for developing your own personal skills and talents.
Personal Development, Defined
The term “personal development” covers countless activities that improve awareness, identity, talents, and potential. These activities enhance a person’s quality of life and contribute to the achievement of personal dreams and aspirations.
In 1978, Daniel Levinson, one of the founders of the field of positive adult development, made this statement:
“Whatever the nature of his Dream, a young man has the developmental task of giving it greater definition and finding ways to live it out. It makes a great difference in his growth whether his initial life structure is consonant with and infused by the Dream, or opposed to it. If the Dream remains unconnected to his life it may simply die and with it his sense of aliveness and purpose.”
Researcher Albert Bandura explains that with the success of obtaining your life’s dream comes a sense of self-efficacy. This functions as a powerful predictor of other future successes because
- It helps you control your emotions and fears.
- It gives you the confidence you need to take risks and set challenging goals.
- It gives you the expectation that you will succeed.
- It helps you stay motivated even if you don’t succeed right away.
Traits and Talents That Supercharge Leadership Skills
The practice of continual development plays a significant role in honing your personal talents and allowing you to achieve your life’s goals. Those habits can be transferred to your life at work, giving you the abilities you need to transform into a powerful leader.
Here is a look at a few personality traits and personal talents that, when applied routinely, can supercharge leadership skills:
- Optimistic: Remaining positive and enthusiastic even during tough times is a quality that ensures eventual success.
- Ethical: Possessing and practicing sound moral principles will guide you through delicate situations and command the respect of others.
- Self-Disciplined: The ability to control emotional and physical impulses makes it possible for that energy to be channeled in a more productive direction.
- Good Listener: Deliberately and empathically allowing others to be heard broadens understanding and opens doors.
- Decisive: By having the courage to make quality decisions quickly, you can move your agendas forward with confidence.
- Balanced: If you maintain your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, burnout will be less likely.
- Visionary: Being able to keep the end goal in mind (even when you’re being sidetracked and running into obstacles) keeps your desires in check and your projects on track.
- Relationship-Oriented: Working hard to create and maintain meaningful relationships with others is one of the hallmarks of a great leader.
Cultivating Your Curiosity
A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Buffalo examined how curiosity affects intimacy and influences the growth of personal and interpersonal resources. The study measured the levels of an individual’s “trait” and “state” curiosity, finding that “both promote exposure to novel and challenging opportunities.” The study also concluded that “highly curious individuals tend to experience more positive interpersonal outcomes than the less curious.”
Since positive interactions and relationships between a leader and those they lead is a non-negotiable trait of true leadership, you can begin to see why cultivating personal curiosity can have a deep impact on success.
For some, curiosity comes naturally. For those to whom it doesn’t, here are three activities to practice:
- Replace all the beliefs that limit or work against you and find reasons to fuel your motivation for learning and exploration. Whether the reasons are for freedom, for financial gain, or just for fun, find your objective.
- Have an open mind. Don’t set limits on yourself with regard to the topics and activities you find yourself being interested in, learning about, and experiencing.
- Ask yourself (and others) many questions that seek to answer “why?” Stop looking for a single “right” answer and open yourself to alternative ideas and solutions.
By more fully understanding what is involved in the continual personal development and cultivating your own curiosity, you’re certain to become a better, more authentic leader.