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Take Your Leadership Pulse

Find the way that gives you the fullest and most accurate picture.

Before you begin any fitness regimen, you’d likely consult a physician to ensure you are healthy enough for physical activity. Your doctor would keep you focused on activities designed to help you get better – healthier. It is also helpful to establish a baseline of data to measure future improvements against.

         When it comes to peak leadership fitness, taking your leadership pulse is akin to getting a full body scan. In short, you look at everything. As uncomfortable or invasive as it might sound, it is an essential first step. There are several ways to take your leadership pulse; you just need to find the way that gives you the fullest and most accurate picture. There are no cutting corners or leaving out the parts that you don’t like or find inconvenient. 

         If you are about to undertake any leadership development activities, it is essential that  you complete an assessment. There are many types of assessments and even more instruments, but I am not going to bury the lede. The best way to know how you are showing up as a leader is a good, reliable 360-degree assessment with a large database. Make sure to select a wide variety of people to complete it for you, listen to the feedback, and use it to form the basis for your development plan. The rest of this chapter discusses the importance of assessments in general, the distinct types, and their costs and impacts. There is a time and place for each of the other assessments, but you will not find greater bang for your buck than a 360.

         Remember, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. If you want to see the best results possible, it is important to understand your current state of performance before you initiate and fitness routine. This provides a baseline of self-awareness, which will help you set realistic goals and track your progress once you’ve started.

         Leadership fitness is no different. For leadership development to be effective and to move towards peak leadership fitness, you must begin by understanding what you’re doing well and not so well, in other words, how are you showing up as a leader? You might be surprised to find out how many leaders get this wrong, whether they think an area is a strength that isn’t or vice versa. Or perhaps they have a blind spot – an area that they are not even aware is lacking.

         It is important to take the time to complete an assessment prior to building your leadership development plan or participating in a program. If you don’t know what you need to work on, how do you know where to invest your time and effort? Not having accurate self-awareness is like trying to find your way to a destination you have never been to before without any directions or navigation. You might know where you want to go but you can’t possibly have any idea how to get there.

         Assessment tools are essential to calibrating your self-awareness. Make sure you select the right tool for what you hope to accomplish (for example, personal interest, team development, or leadership development). The results act as your compass, guiding you on what you should work on to become a better, more effective leader.

         Because context matters, this should not be a one-and-done activity, your roles, organizations, or direct reports may change, and hopefully you are continuing to develop. Therefore, you need to take your pulse regularly. I recommend every 18-24 months. This will allow time for you to grow and develop between pulse checks.

The preceding is adapted from Peak Leadership Fitness: Elevating Your Leadership Game by Timothy J. Tobin ©2019 by ASTD/ATD and published with permission from the publisher.

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