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How to Develop Your Leadership Skills When Short on Time

Time is just an excuse when it comes to developing your leadership skills.

By Flamingo Images/Shutterstock
By Flamingo Images/Shutterstock

Everyone claims to be “so busy” these days. The truth is, we make time for what’s important to us. If you want to get in better shape, you make time for it. If you want to be a better golfer, you make time for it. The same is true in leadership. 

Before we go any further, let’s get on the same page about one crucial truth: Leadership skills are developed, not something you are born with. Your development as a leader is paramount because of the impact you will have on other people. There isn’t a better quote to depict this, than from Warren Buffett:

Someone is siting in the shade today because someone planted the tree a long time ago.

There are many reasons why people don’t commit to growing and developing as a leader:

  • Companies prioritize new products, services, and increasing short-term revenue during company events over the development of their people’s leadership skills 
  • Performance reviews rarely focus on the development of a leader and instead focuses solely on the results from the last year
  • Leaders think they are a finished product and have leadership all figured out

But since you are reading this, I have a sneaky suspicion you aren’t one to make excuses. You want the answer to a simple question, “How do I develop my leadership skills when I don’t have the time?” 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

Every day, tell yourself you are good enough and worthy 

The development of any skill centers around confidence. As Helen Keller famously said, “Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Like all personality traits, they are improved through practice and increasing belief.  

The most straightforward way to build confidence is by choosing the words you say to yourself. A leader we studied in Building the Best, doesn’t let the results of the year determine her confidence. Instead, she looks in the mirror every day and reminds herself, “I am good enough, and I am worthy.” This simple practice only takes three seconds but packs an enormous impact.

Watch for leadership lessons in the content you consume

I always find enough time to watch football. While it’s time spent on something I enjoy, I am always on the lookout for leadership lessons.  

A great example of this came from Andy Reid of the Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs this weekend. He was speaking about his quarterback, Patrick Mahomes and how great of a leader he is, “When he (Mahomes) is in that building, it’s all football, it’s all team. He’s never given an ‘It’s about me.’ I’ve never heard that from him. It’s all 100% about the team: ‘How we’re doing, what we can do better, how can I help?’ And then (he) buckles down to get the game plan down. He studies. For young guys out there, what a great example that is about hard work.”

The simple habit of pulling leadership lessons from your favorite shows, movies, or blogs is low hanging fruit in the development of your leadership skills. 

Commit to Growth 20.  

The best leaders start their day with a routine that helps them perform at their best. Certain leaders start at 4 am, while others get going at 8 am. Regardless of what your method is, I know you can commit to 20 minutes a day of development.  

It’s what I refer to as “growth 20.” Twenty minutes a day, reading, listening, or watching something that will help you grow. With the explosion of podcasts, youtube, and platforms like LinkedIn, the options are endless. All you have to do is create a sustainable habit to make it happen. Here are a few ideas:

  • Listen to a book or podcast during your commute
  • Read a chapter of a book before bed instead of watching TV
  • Block 20 minutes on your calendar to read LinkedIn, Thrive Global, or Harvard Business Review  

Meditate on your leadership interactions

One of the best ways to turn knowledge into comprehension is to meditate on the leadership events that happen every day. Because you are in a position of leadership, there are plenty of opportunities to do just this.  

Get in the habit of writing down a few notes about your interactions throughout your day. Think about the things that worked, didn’t work, and what you can do better next time. 

Rehearse critical conversations right before they happen

Far too often, leaders have direct dialogues with team members without rehearsing them. I don’t care how long you have been leading; this is a bad practice. Do you think Tiger Woods goes out to play a tournament without preparing his body and mind beforehand? Not a chance.  

Get out a notepad and write down your shared purpose statement. Beginning with a shared purpose statement puts you both in alignment from the start and helps remove defensive barriers. Then, please write down the evidence or truths (not feelings) you have witnesses that you want to make them aware of to help improve their performance. This simple practice takes all of two or three minutes and drastically improves your odds of being successful.  

If you aren’t doing any of these, pick one that will work for you and commit to it for tomorrow. Start small and get one win. Then do it again the next day.  

Tell me what you think in the comments

What are other ways you develop your leadership skills when you’re short on time that I missed?

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