* 30 Practical Ways to Develop as a Leader

October 13, 2014 Linda Aspey 2 Comments

highwaysFor most people, being a leader doesn’t happen overnight, even if they’re given the title overnight. It’s often more a case of becoming one, working at it and gaining more experience, whether this is in leading ideas, strategies,  people or whole businesses – or all 4 and more.

Here are just some ideas; some are high risk, some are low, some are relevant to leading in larger organisations, some to smaller, some to both:

  1. Take on a failing department or company with the aim of turning it around
  2. Lead or contribute to a project that has a high internal or external profile
  3. Get involved in cross departmental projects to understand the wider business and strengthen your collaborative abilities
  4. Seek out a stretch assignment in a completely new territory to develop your resilience and flexibility
  5. Make presentations to very difference audiences so you can learn to speak to different hearts and minds
  6. Learn how to speak and present powerfully without Powerpoint so you can fully engage with your audience and they with you
  7. Regard appraisals as development opportunities – your own and others
  8. Get a mentor and/or be a mentor – both are invaluable learning experiences
  9. Learn how to really manage your emails so you feel and are seen as on top of things (as much as is possible!)
  10. Get a leadership coach who will challenge as well as support you
  11. Develop your listening & coaching skills – learn how to help people to think for themselves
  12. Become great at giving and receiving feedback, in fact at seeking it too
  13. Gain international experience or exposure, increasing your perspective and widening your relationships
  14. Get experience in dealing with 3rd party advisors (e.g. lawyers, accountants, bankers, management consultants) or industry regulators
  15. Sit on an internal senior committee eg audit, remuneration, risk management, etc
  16. Shadow people in both more junior and more senior roles – you can learn so much from both
  17. Every quarter, choose one new positive habit you’d like to develop and work at it until the next quarter – by then it will feel natural
  18. Participate in industry / professional bodies at a leadership level – get known outside of your own organisation
  19. Speak at relevant industry conferences – get confidence from the practice, promote your organisation and get comfortable with promoting yourself
  20. Participate in different society / community initiatives – you’ll gain new experiences and perspectives that you can’t always find on your own doorstep
  21. Take a professional management or leadership qualification (e.g. MBA, Leadership Diploma etc)
  22. Set up your own networking group or Think Tank
  23. Be generous with your time when junior people ask for career help – lift as you climb
  24. Be current – read a variety of business, economic and management publications regularly
  25. Learn how to understand a set of company accounts well enough so you can explain them simply to others 
  26. Manage a full P&L or at least an important budget
  27. Learn how to do really good interviews and how to hire really good people – as you go further up the ladder your ability to hire well will become even more important
  28. Commit to and work at maintaining a balanced lifestyle – mentally and physically
  29. Learn from working with a great boss
  30. Learn from working with a difficult boss!


And in addition – as kindly suggested by Lynne Philp on Linked In and wholeheartedly agreed by me –

31. “Learn and master the art of giving appreciation and recognition”

Thank you Lynne!


These ideas  can inspire coaching sessions, career development discussions and appraisals. They can also help you to explore gaps, aspirations and potential if you or someone you lead is eager for the next step in their career but not quite sure what to work on next.

What would leaders or other coaches and development professionals add from your own experience to this list? I’d really welcome your comments!

© Linda Aspey 2014

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  • anil jain

    If I may add on Active listening (though it is mentioned in point number 11.
    “Learn to listen actively – do not wait for people to finish, so you can speak. That’s only hearing”

    Thanks for the wonderful list – much appreciated 🙂

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