It has been well described that leaders are made, not born. Thus, we also understand the importance of committing to deliberate practice of leadership skills we need wish to develop. As Dr. Wright so insightfully reminded us, “you have to water the flowers you want to grow (Wright, P., personal communication).” The purpose of this writeup is to introduce the leadership skills that I have identified to focus on for personal development and to provide rationale for their selection. Most of the reference materials cited come from Harvard Business Review, as this publication has been, in my opinion, a wealth of knowledge for leadership development.
I would like to improve upon two aspects of effective communication, (1) the quality of content, and (2) my confidence in public speaking.
What I mean by quality of communication stems from a recent article I read that discusses the importance of cultivating not just one voice of leadership, but several, to best adapt to various situations (Su, 2018). In this article, the author reviews five types of voices and provides context in which each voice is appropriate to use. For purposes of this activity, I would like to specifically improve upon my leadership voices of context, clarity and connection (i.e., storytelling). These voices, in concert, I view as the ability to effectively translate thoughts to written and spoken word.
Voice of Context. I correlate the term context with meaningfulness, and I find this to be particularly relevant when communicating to others about my doctor of nursing practice (DNP) scholarly project. Often, I have spent so much time reading and reflecting on the literature related to my project and forget to consider that others have not. While this may seem elementary, I very often just go straight to a particular finding without thinking about the audience and their needs to find meaningfulness in what I am communicating.
Voice of Clarity. I believe context and clarity are, essentially, two sides of the same coin –you really cannot have one without the other. If you fail to communicate clearly, it is impossible for the audience to find meaningfulness.
Voice of Connection. The ability to connect with whom you’re speaking to can be described as a skill of storytelling. Going back to my example of often failing to provide context when discussing my project, I often get so excited about the magnitude of information I want to convey that the message I am trying to get across gets lost. I am so focused on the sheer volume of factoids— that, likely, more often than not— all of what I am saying goes in one ear and straight out the other, instead of really sticking. I want to strengthen my ability to engage with whom I am communicating. If context is meaningfulness, connection, or storytelling, is interest.
Confidence in Public Speaking
While I am unsure of the source or actual credibility, the commonly cited statistic of “more people fear public speaking than death” typically pops into people’s minds when discussing confidence in public speaking. I do not exactly have a fear of public speaking, but I think more so a fear of not doing the content of what I am speaking about justice. I think I am also fearful of the reaction of the audience on my credibility of a speaker. What is ironic is that it is often a self-fulfilling prophecy in the sense that as these fears begin to take effect, I lose confidence, and as a result finish the presentation with a sense of unfulfilled potential.
I have always very much enjoyed personal quiet time. While today it may seem trendy to participate in mindfulness meditation, the practice can provide remarkable benefits to your overall health and well-being (Galante et al., 2016, 2018; Robins, Kiken, Holt, & McCain, 2014). Furthermore, having quiet, dedicated time of solitude for reflection and creative development has been identified as a true competitive advantage in business and leadership (Erwin, 2017; Pasricha, 2018).
My mom majored in English in college, and growing up, she encouraged careful attention to grammar and syntax in both spoken and written word. I attribute much of my love for writing to the encouragement I received from my mother and her sincere dedication to seeing both my brother and me succeed in our schoolwork. I have such fond memories of the sense of personal pride and joy I felt when I received the stamp of approval from my favorite editor. As I transitioned from my role as a student to my career as a nurse, I stopped taking the time to have personal, quiet reflection and journaling. I believe this to be the result of no longer having required writing assignments for school. When I returned to school for my masters in nursing (MSN), there were, of course, professional writing assignments, but it was not until I returned to school for my doctor of nursing practice (DNP) did it occur to me the importance of reflective journaling for both professional development, as well as personal joy.
Formatting reflective journaling as a digital, professional blog, serves as a portfolio of professional development, and allows others to get to know you. It helps to build your credibility as a leader, and, if truthfully executed, it offers transparency of your personal thought processes and logic for a variety of topics (Clark, 2012; Garrity, 2013; Jefferson, Martin, & Owens, 2014; Zori, 2016). This is particularly true if utilized as a pedagogical tool while in the role of a student, and continued following completion of formal studies (Aoun, 2017).
Conduct Effective Meetings
Meetings are a fact of life –whether acting as attendee (passive participant), active participant, facilitator or leader, and whether in the context of professional or personal (e.g., family) purposes. The ability to conduct effective meetings is, like all leadership skills, a learned one, and its’ importance and impact on personal and professional effectiveness is obvious, but from what I’ve observed in my limited experience, very rarely identified in practice as focus for improvement. It seems this failure to improve largely stems from simple inertia (Gino & Staats, 2015; Perlow, Hadley, & Eun, 2017).
The feedback component of this leadership activity is organized as a 360-degree review. A peer-to-peer partnership is formed, and each partner serves as both a mentor as well as a mentee. Why? This allows for better identification of personal weaknesses, as, often, leaders have a hard time identifying serious flaws in their leadership abilities, as they are often a result of something they do not do (Zenger & Folkman, 2018). Having a trusted colleague provide honest feedback helps you to become more self-aware. By also allowing for each partner to serve as a mentor, the activity facilitates development of the leadership skills of coaching others, as well as intentionality in both listening and delivering feedback.
Effective communication, reflection, and conducting effective meetings are the leadership skills I seek to develop with this leadership growth plan. My plan for growth is to, strategically, practice, practice, practice! Table 1 provides a synopsis of my specific plan for skill development. The subsequent installments of this leadership growth plan will incorporate feedback from my peer partner, as well as my reflections as I progress in my personal development along with the specific tools and strategies I use.
Table 1. Leadership Growth Plan
Note: 2018-06-11 draft. Initial meeting with peer partner completed on 2018-06-15. We connected via google hangout virtual meeting platform for approximately 30-45-minutes. Meeting was conversational and establishing rapport, as we had not had much prior interaction. We discussed our initial thoughts of our individual growth plan and offered each other general commentary on each other’s chosen areas for growth, but no formal feedback at this time. Meeting concluded with plan to work on our respective growth plans and will coordinate next meeting following Adobe connect class synchronous session the week of 2018-06-25. Agenda items for next meeting include, (1) general updates and thoughts and (2) plan for formal feedback of each other’s growth plans to be completed at least a few days prior to submission deadline of 2018-07-15.
Aoun, J. E. (2017). Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Robot-Proof-Higher-Education-Artificial-Intelligence/dp/0262037289/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Clark, D. (2012, December 21). If you’re serious about ideas, get serious about blogging. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/12/if-youre-serious-about-ideas-g
Erwin, M. (2017, October 19). In a distracted world, solitude Is a competitive advantage. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/10/in-a-distracted-world-solitude-is-a-competitive-advantage
Galante, J., Dufour, G., Benton, A., Howarth, E., Vainre, M., Croudace, T. J., … Jones, P. B. (2016). Protocol for the Mindful Student Study: a randomized controlled trial of the provision of a mindfulness intervention to support university students’ well-being and resilience to stress. BMJ Open, 6(11), e012300. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012300
Galante, J., Dufour, G., Vainre, M., Wagner, A. P., Stochl, J., Benton, A., … Jones, P. B. (2018). A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. The Lancet. Public Health, 3(2), e72–e81. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30231-1
Garrity, M. K. (2013). Developing nursing leadership skills through reflective journaling: a nursing professor’s personal reflection. Reflective Practice, 14(1), 118–130. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2012.732940
Gino, F., & Staats, B. (2015, November 1). Why organizations do not learn. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/11/why-organizations-dont-learn
Jefferson, J. K., Martin, I. H., & Owens, J. (2014). Leader development through reading and reflection. Journal of Leadership Studies, 8(2), 67–75.
Pasricha, N. (2018, March 16). Why you need an untouchable day every week. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/03/why-you-need-an-untouchable-day-every-week
Perlow, L. A., Hadley, C. N., & Eun, E. (2017, July 1). Stop the meeting madness. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness
Robins, J. L. W., Kiken, L., Holt, M., & McCain, N. L. (2014). Mindfulness: an effective coaching tool for improving physical and mental health. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 26(9), 511–518. https://doi.org/10.1002/2327-6924.12086
Su, A. J. (2018, January 10). You do not just need one leadership voice — you need many. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/01/you-dont-just-need-one-leadership-voice-you-need-many
Zenger, J., & Folkman, J. (2018, February 21). Most leaders know their strengths — but are oblivious to their weaknesses. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/02/most-leaders-know-their-strengths-but-are-oblivious-to-their-weaknesses
Zori, S. (2016). Teaching critical thinking using reflective journaling in a nursing fellowship program. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing; Thorofare, 47(7), 321–329. http://dx.doi.org.proxy.library.emory.edu/10.3928/00220124-20160616-09